Penn State finally says no to Joe Paterno, fires him

Joe Paterno is saying goodbye, but not in the way anybody anticipated for the college coaching legend.

Joe Paterno is saying goodbye, but not in the way anybody anticipated for the college coaching legend.

The final day of Joe Paterno’s career was different from every other one: Somebody finally said no to him.

After a dizzying few days that saw Penn State become engulfed in a sex abuse scandal that will linger for years in criminal and civil cases, the Penn State Board of Trustees ousted Paterno as head coach and university president Graham Spanier following an emergency meeting Wednesday night.

The stunning firing of Paterno came only hours after the 85-year-old coach had announced he would retire — apparently without any approval from school officials — at the end of the season. But that would have created a circus atmosphere, beginning with Saturday’s final home game against Nebraska, that the board apparently didn’t want.

This story has moved at a dizzying pace. It’s going to take a while to digest. But nobody could have anticipated that Paterno, one of the legends of the college coaching profession, somebody who has long been known for acting with honor and character, would see his career come to such a startling ending, amid one of the biggest scandals in history.

The unraveling of a 61-year career at Penn State (46 years as head coach) began last Saturday with the news of a Pennsylvania attorney general bringing sex abuse charges against one of Paterno’s former coaches, defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Two other university officials were charged with perjury, leading to the wide-spread belief of a possible coverup.

Eight victims were identified in the Pennsylvania grand jury’s finding of fact. But it has been reported that number could approach 20. There have been suggestions of a massive coverup by Penn State. Several people have drawn parallels between this and the sex abuse scandals of the Roman Catholic Church.

Paterno has not been charged with any crime. He reported the only allegation known to have been brought to him in 2002, when a then-graduate assistant witnessed Sandusky with a boy of about 10 years old in the showers in the Penn State locker rooms. But Paterno’s failure to follow up on the matter with school officials or university police, along with Sandusky being afforded access to athletic facilities and at office at Penn State in retirement, led many to conclude Paterno did not fulfill his moral obligations and may have been complicit in a coverup. Paterno supporters have screamed that there has been a rush to judgement.

Regardless, this is not the way anybody anticipated Paterno would go out.

Only Wednesday morning did Paterno finally release a statement expressing regret for not following up on the allegations against Sandusky. (”This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”)

He announced his retirement, effective at the end of the season. But he did so on his own, without any suggestion from school’s officials that he would be allowed to do so, and as John Surma, the board’s chairman and CEO, said Wednesday night: “In our view, we thought a change now was necessary. To allow this process to continue we thought would be damaging so we took the actions that we did.”

Unfortunately, the damage started back in at least 1998, when Sandusky first was charged. But the matter was dropped and buried. If school officials had acted differently back then, and certainly if Paterno and others had been more diligent in 2002, this ugly ending would never have occurred.

For those who missed Paterno’s statement earlier Wednesday when he announced his intention to retire after the season,  here it is again:

“I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.

“I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today.

“That’s why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can. This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.

“My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this University.”

By Jeff Schultz

331 comments Add your comment

Ugadawg

November 9th, 2011
11:09 pm

It’s about time. Truly a sad situation.

cattle dawg

November 9th, 2011
11:12 pm

Cant believe the students storming the streets in protest.

cattle dawg

November 9th, 2011
11:13 pm

Jeff, whats ur take on the former grad assistant whos now a coach still having his job?

Spyro

November 9th, 2011
11:13 pm

Bad ending to a terrible situation… but I don’t think there was any other logical step to take other than this.

Flowery Branch Yellow Jacket

November 9th, 2011
11:13 pm

Second paragraph from the end … the allegations were not against Paterno, they were against Sandusky.

Phillipe

November 9th, 2011
11:14 pm

“Only Wednesday morning did Paterno, 85, finally release a statement expressing regret for not following up on the allegations against Paterno.”

What?

hawks4life

November 9th, 2011
11:14 pm

sad story all around

Barbara

November 9th, 2011
11:19 pm

Joe Pa and many others should be ashamed at their lack of action. They need to “clean house” and hold those accountable! The coaching staff and administration were more concerned about their “Happy Valley” reputation than the welfare of these poor children. Shame on them!

Woody Hayes

November 9th, 2011
11:21 pm

I say Penn States season is done, toast, kaput. No way they can play another game. The bowl would be a total joke. The Referee’s families would be the only one attending/watching and that would hardly make the sponsors happy.

Besides, after the game, nobody is gonna wanna bend over and pick up the soap

UF in a mirror is FU

November 9th, 2011
11:21 pm

Looking at what people knew and when they knew it, you have to think Paterno was part of cover up. A super successful asst coach retires early, Sandusky, another is given a full-time coaching position within a relatively short period of time,Mcqueary, who witnessed Sandusky rape a ten year old. Only Paterno could have hired Mcqueary.

Happy Valley

November 9th, 2011
11:23 pm

FREE CANDY!!!!!

Woody Hayes

November 9th, 2011
11:23 pm

Jeff, you’re on to something. The forthcoming civil suits and there will be many will be viewed by a jury. Had Paterno been allowed to play it would not have played out favorably for the University.

More the reason. Season is toast.

Paul in NH

November 9th, 2011
11:24 pm

This is certainly a depressing and sickening story all around. Paterno still needs to stand in front of a room full of reporters and answer questions but I wonder now that he is out if anyone will be there to listen.

Woody Hayes

November 9th, 2011
11:25 pm

Amazing. I am agnostic, but isn’t it funny how things work out. 46 years and 2 NC’s. He should have been shown the door a long, long time ago. 94 since relavancy (sp).

OldSchoolTechFanatic

November 9th, 2011
11:26 pm

Who are you to Judge??? We have all this slime ball liberal press that has not printed the truth in a while and know you are gonna judge somebody. Why did not the AJC break the story on ACORN. I am pretty sure it was not much of a story at all for yall when the ACORN story broke out and they (Acorn) were ready to help hide the tax stauts of somebody that was (it was an undercover reporter) wanting to import youth for prostitution and call it a business. Who are you to judge ???

William

November 9th, 2011
11:26 pm

This could be any of us involved in education. I guess we have learned that any hint of allegations of this sort we call the police. Don’t trust the people above us to do the right thing. Do it yourself. A big mess all around. There is no punishment great enough for Coach Sandusky. The rest will have to live with it. I hope the kids, now young men will get the help they need to recover from this.

oldfart

November 9th, 2011
11:27 pm

Stayed too long. In the short term a legacy destroyed. Perhaps the stigma will reduce in time but he will take it to his grave long before the pendulum swings back. This type of horror cannot and should not be covered up and I think it is obvious that more was known. A 55 year old heir apparent retiring? Don’t think so.

Jeff Schultz

November 9th, 2011
11:29 pm

Cattle Dawg — That grad assistant, Mike McQueary, is the wide receivers coach and he also should be out of a job . . . at the very least.

GIRL KNOW BETTER THAN YOU

November 9th, 2011
11:30 pm

BEFORE IT IS ALL SAID AND DONE GUARANTEE YOU THEY WILL ARREST PATERNO

cattle dawg

November 9th, 2011
11:30 pm

The press corps questions were just asinine. It was all about an injustice Paterno was getting.

Falcons Fan

November 9th, 2011
11:30 pm

They should all be out of a job IMO Jeff.

Jeff Schultz

November 9th, 2011
11:31 pm

Phillipe — I’ll add Paterno’s entire statement to the blog, but here’s an excerpt: “This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

5150 UOAD

November 9th, 2011
11:32 pm

Firing Joe Paterno is wrong. He is not the child molester or the witness.
Usually the whistle blower gets fired not middleman who did what he was legally supposed to do.

phil

November 9th, 2011
11:32 pm

Well done, Jeff.

You guys have another scalp.

Pathetic.

Jeff Schultz

November 9th, 2011
11:32 pm

Falcons Fan — Before this is over, they all will be out of a job.

Woody Hayes

November 9th, 2011
11:33 pm

The Bear died a month and day after retiring. I say Paterno is dead within a year.

He never cared about the University. It was about setting the record. Did I see something where the ex Free Shoes University coach was supporting Paterno.

phil

November 9th, 2011
11:33 pm

What the heck….

Arrest and kill paterno now!!

Would that make you bonehead fools happy?

sawdawg

November 9th, 2011
11:34 pm

It is sad to to see this happen, but when you admit in a released statement today that you didn’t do enough, then you have to go! He knew that something happened and I’m pretty sure that he knows he should have done more. If you’re going to talk and preach to your players about doing what is morally right, then you have to walk the walk which was to do the right thing and alert the police as to what happened. The right decision was made by the Board of Trustees tonight in the best interest of Penn State.

Andy

November 9th, 2011
11:34 pm

I am taking Neb this week

Michael M.

November 9th, 2011
11:34 pm

This Story just makes you sick……………a sad day in College football hearing all these accusations and Paterno being fired this evening. Somehow I cant believe He didn’t know more about what was going on within his organization. I feel bad about the kids and having to deal with some Predator running lose !
How in the World can something like this go on for so long without the Culprit being caught ? This is truly going to be one of the biggest Stories leaking out in the Sports World in the coming days and weeks !
I know we carry on in here on the blogs and cut up and sometimes we say things against each others Fans that are downright dirty but it is just all in Fun and nothing more and we all know that.
Just the more I find out on this Story though is just really depressing ! I hope we never have another thing like this happen in our Football Programs in any State because I am afrai after this whole Story leaks out we all will be sick !

Sad Valley

November 9th, 2011
11:36 pm

Well if he knew about what happened he needed to be fired any other coach would have gotten fired for it so Joe isn’t any different. But back to business Let’s Go Georgia Tech we need to beat Virginia Tech on Thursday. Go Jackets!

cattle dawg

November 9th, 2011
11:36 pm

Michael, go read the grand jury report. It will make you really sick

Dawgtalon

November 9th, 2011
11:38 pm

I did read the ENTIRE 23 page report and was SHOCKED. This is only going to get worse in the coming days,weeks. After reading the grand jury report there is no way that Joe Pa was not a part of covering it up. I guess he put it in someone else’s hand to clean his? He is responsible for helping allow it to continue. There is no way I will ever be able to respect him as a man or a coach again. His legacy will always carry this ugly incident. PSU fired him because of the circus that would have be created anytime a pre or post game press conference.There would be no talk of the game only the scandal. Penn State maid sure they protected what is left of the schools reputatiuon,too bad they did nothing to protect those children.

Mike

November 9th, 2011
11:38 pm

I’m a UGA fan but I want to go on the record saying that Paterno was a great man and did a lot for college football and Penn State. I’m sure in his mind he thought he was doing the right thing, but now realizes more needed to be done. It’s a shame it had to end this way. Paterno had to go, but to go out amidst a disgrace just doesn’t seem fair.

Woody Hayes

November 9th, 2011
11:38 pm

Let’s see.

The Good:

Tiger was never relevant this year, Serena gotted slammed in her last slam, Vick is 3-7 in his last ten games, Paterno is out.

The Bad:

Casey Anthony found not guilty. Amanda Knox found not guilty.

Kane337

November 9th, 2011
11:39 pm

Joe must go and is gone……FINALLY!

itpdude

November 9th, 2011
11:39 pm

When due process and a fair hearing lose and a reactionary decision is made based on a mob-rule mentality, it is no surprise the students of PSU should act in kind and take to the streets.

If any blood is spilled, it is on the hands of those who rushed to judgment.

cattle dawg

November 9th, 2011
11:41 pm

All these cowards deserve to be fired and some deserve more than that.

Paul in NH

November 9th, 2011
11:42 pm

In firing Paterno, effective immediately rather than letting him coach the next 3 regular season games + a bowl game, the PSU Board of Trustees made the only decision they could make in the circumstances. Keeping Paterno on the sidelines or in the booth for the rest of the season would have made the situation worse (if that is possible). The only chance Paterno had to stay until the end of the season disappeared with the cancellation of yesterday’s news conference.

5150 UOAD

November 9th, 2011
11:42 pm

you think Amanda Knox killed that girl?
OJ innocent
Michael Jackson innocent
Dr. Murray guilty
Joe Pa guilty in court of bad public opinion.

Buddy

November 9th, 2011
11:43 pm

tech and ga coaches should go after any georgia recruits that are leaning towards penn st if there are any

JSS

November 9th, 2011
11:44 pm

Well I’m not going to get down into the muck on this one. I made position clear the other day on this matter. Joe Paterno is not, and I repeat “is not the story” in this matter. Pedophiles is the story. For all of the haunting detail, the matter of the State of Pennsylvania vs Jerry Sandusky is one that will revolve around that man and his actions. Then maybe the attention to turn to his victims and then guilt (if found guilty) and more importantly, justice for his victims…

Oh, and maybe next week instead of the glorification of the “Game of the Century,” we’ll get some real news of the mess that is the phony culture that is major college athletics…

Kane337

November 9th, 2011
11:44 pm

With the benefit of hindsight he only wished he had not been caught in the cover up.

Jaime

November 9th, 2011
11:44 pm

Exactly. McQueary went from being a grad asst. to being a coach. Hired by Paterno. Cover up. Period. When football becomes your God, you will lose. Eventually. Paterno admitted “he wishes he had done more.” All you people who think firing Paterno is wrong…I want you to picture your young child…a child you love…any child…with his hands clawing the wall while being being smashed in the behind by an old man. Exactly how did Paterno sleep at night all these years? If you support his cover up, how do you sleep at night???

Kane337

November 9th, 2011
11:45 pm

He had almost 10 years to do something and did NOTHING

cattle dawg

November 9th, 2011
11:45 pm

I guess fair is joe pa and the psu officials telling Sandusky not to bring anymore kids back on campus where he raped several of them. They didnt call police . If nothing was wrong why bar him from bringing these kids on campus?

oldfart

November 9th, 2011
11:45 pm

Of course Sandusky is the real monster here and if I for one were on the jury the assistant could have crushed his skull in the act with impunity. That being said, remember a Presidency was brought down due to an attempt at a cover up. That also was deserved and that was for covering up a much less heinous crime.

GT Alum

November 9th, 2011
11:47 pm

Wonder how many of the people supporting Paterno now were ready to show him the door when the team wasn’t winning.

Doug Williams

November 9th, 2011
11:49 pm

HA! Matt Schuab is 6-4 (6-3 this year) his last ten games. Blank never gave him a real chance because he knew the demographics and what “they” desperately want.

Bill

November 9th, 2011
11:52 pm

Thanks Jeff for your great work in covering this story. Some people just don’t seem to care but child abuse is serious business. I know you have a couple kids and so do I. If this had happen to my kid I don’t know what I would have done..Thank God for reporters like you.