Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier were fired late Wednesday in the face of a sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the college football world.
Penn State’s Board of Trustees voted to end Paterno’s tenure immediately, despite his announcement hours earlier that he wished to finish the season before retiring.
Paterno and other top school officials came under fire for not going to police in 2002 after a graduate assistant told Paterno he saw former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky assaulting a 10-year-old boy in a school shower.
Paterno told other administrators about the incident, including the recently-ousted athletics director, but never went to police. Because of their inaction, Sandusky was able to abuse several more boys in the years following.
Sandusky was charged with molesting eight young boys between 1994 and 2009. Reports are emerging that there could be more victims.
“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,” Paterno said in a statement Wednesday.
Other scandals surrounding college football in the last year and a half — like Cam Newton’s father allegedly shopping his son’s talents for profit, Ohio State’s Jim Tressel lying to NCAA investigators and the imprisoned booster claiming illicit benefits at Miami (Fla.) — pale in comparison to the impact of the allegations brought against Penn State.
The heads continue to roll as the scandal had already claimed the jobs of Penn State’s athletics director and a vice president.
Authorities charged Sandusky with 40 counts of sexual abuse, 21 of them felonies, for the molestation of eight boys over a 15-year period. A two-year grand jury investigation found that Sandusky encountered each of the victims through a charity organization called The Second Mile that he established in 1977.
Paterno hasn’t been accused of any legal wrongdoing, but many believe he should have fired Sandusky or at least taken the claims to the police with word of such allegations.
Graduate assistant Mike McQueary testified that he saw Sandusky having anal sex with the boy in the showers.
Pennsylvania’s police commissioner said Monday that Paterno did not do enough to stop the alleged sexual abuse, citing a lapse of “moral responsibility.”
Paterno immediately notified athletics director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, but reportedly did not follow up on the matter.
Curley was placed on administrative leave and Schultz retired Nov. 6. Both have been charged with failing to report the incident to authorities.
Sandusky continued to use the school’s facilities for his charity work after his retirement in 1999, but following the incident in 2002, Sandusky was barred from bringing children onto the main campus in State College, Pa.
However, Sandusky was apparently allowed to operate a summer football camp for boys on a different Penn State campus for six years after school officials were told of his sexual misconduct.
He operated the summer camp under his name from 2002 to 2008 at the satellite campus in Erie, Pa., where he had daily interaction with boys from fourth grade to high school.
No complaints came out of the Erie campus about Sandusky during that time period, according to the school’s Director of Marketing Communication Bill Gonda.
A column that ran in the Beaver County Times in April titled “Sandusky a State secret” outlined the suspicious activity behind Sandusky’s retirement.
A little more than six months ago, the article reported that the first allegation of sexual misconduct took place in 1998, when he was still an employee.
Sandusky retired the next year in 1999 at a young coaching age of 55.
The article questioned why the successful coach, who was recognized as college football’s top assistant in 1986 and 1999, would walk away from the sport.
This raises the question: how much did Penn State’s administration know?
Sandusky retired with a clean reputation, which allowed him to run a charity that gave him access to underage males.
This scandal brings an end to one of the most storied coaching careers in sports. The man in the thick-rimmed glasses known as “Joe Pa” was in the middle of his 46th year as head coach and will not be on the sidelines for the final home game of the season this Saturday against No. 19 Nebraska.
The coach has been serving Penn State since he joined as an assistant in 1950.
Paterno has amassed a Division I all-time record 409 wins as a head coach, including two national titles in 1982 and 1986 — both with a Sandusky-coached defense.
Paterno has commanded the blue and white to a remarkable No. 12 national ranking and an 8-1 record this season, with its only loss coming to No. 3 Alabama.
Penn State has a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 3, with a Rose Bowl bid on the line.
--The Associated Press contributed to this report