The streets of State College, Pennsylvania, began to fill with students in the minutes and hours after word spread the legendary head coach Joe Paterno had been fired by the Board of Trustees on Wednesday night. Report follows.
STATE COLLEGE, PA.—Riot police were on standby Wednesday night after news spread that long-time Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier had been fired in the wake of a sex scandal.
Thousands of students took to the streets after the news conference. John Surma, the vice chair of the board of trustees, said he hoped students, staff and others would understand that the decisions were made in the interest of the university as a whole, “which is much larger than athletic programs.”
Speaking at his house to a couple of dozen students, Paterno said, “Right now, I’m not the football coach. And I’ve got to get used to that. After 61 years, I’ve got to get used to it. I appreciate it. Let me think it through.”
He shook hands with many of the students, some of whom were crying.
Other students were upset. A large crowd descended on the administration building, shouting “We want Joe back!” then headed to Beaver Stadium.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will serve as interim coach while Rodney Erickson will be the interim school president.
The firings came three days before Penn State hosts Nebraska in its final home game of the season, a day usually set aside to honour seniors on the team.
The ouster of the man affectionately known as “JoePa” brings to an end one of the most storied coaching careers — not just in college football but in all of sports. Paterno has 409 victories — a record for major college football — won two national titles and guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons. He reached 300 wins faster than any other coach.
Penn State is 8-1 this year, with its only loss to powerhouse Alabama. The Nittany Lions are No. 12 in The Associated Press poll.
After 19th-ranked Nebraska, Penn State plays at Ohio State and at No. 16 Wisconsin, both Big Ten rivals. It has a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 3 in Indianapolis, with a Rose Bowl bid on the line.
A committee to investigate the allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky will be appointed Friday at the board’s regular meeting, which Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said he plans to attend, and will examine “what failures occurred and who is responsible and what measures are necessary to ensure” similar mistakes aren’t made in the future.
UPDATE: The Philadelphia Daily News is reporting “Bedlam Erupts” on Penn State campus after news of Paterno’s firing spread. See video below.