Penn State University's board of trustees has fired Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier in the wake of sexual abuse allegations against former defense coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
The shakeup announced by the board Wednesday night means Paterno, the winningest coach in Division I and one of the most respected in any sport, will not coach another game for the Nittany Lions.
The board said it determined that “it is in the best interest of the university for Joe Paterno to no longer serve as head football coach, effective immediately.”
“I would hope that everyone would agree that what we're doing is, what we believe in our best judgement, is in the long-term interest of the university, which is much larger than athletic programs,” Board of Trustees Vice Chairman John Surma said at a news conference.
“Right now, I'm not the football coach, and that's something I have to get used to,” Paterno said, according to The Associated Press.
People gathered at Paterno's house were seen crying late Wednesday night. The coach eventually came out to suggest the students go home and study, and thanked them for their continued support.
He said he was told of the firing by telephone.
“I'm out of it, maybe for now,” he said. “A phone call put me out of it, but we'll go from here.”
Paterno also issued a statement that said he was “disappointed with the board's decision.
“I have to accept it,” he said in the statement. “A tragedy occurred, and we all have to have patience to let the legal process proceed. I appreciate the outpouring of support but want to emphasize that everyone should remain calm and please respect the university, its property and all that we value.”
Paterno had announced he would retire at the end of his 46th season earlier in the day, saying in a statement that he is “absolutely devastated” by the developments of the investigation.
“It is one of the great sorrows of my life,” Paterno said. “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
Paterno and other Penn State officials have been criticized for not going to police after a graduate assistant reported seeing Sandusky in a locker room shower with a young boy in March 2002.
Two other administrators stepped down Monday. Athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz, who had oversight of the university police department, are charged with perjury before a grand jury investigating Sandusky and failing to report the 2002 incident to police.
Spanier has said he was not given the details of the incident.
Sandusky, Paterno's one-time heir apparent, was arrested Saturday on charges he sexually abused eight boys for a period of 15 years. Several more accusers have since come forward to police, perhaps as many as 17, according to a Philadelphia television station.
He has denied the allegations.
The board named Dr. Rodney A. Erickson, executive vice president and provost, as the interim president of the University.
Tom Bradley, assistant coach, has been named interim head football coach.