Despite Promise to Retire, Penn State Fires Paterno for Handling of Sandusky Child Sex Abuse ScandalNov 10, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP
Former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno's much-vaunted career has come to an abrupt end. Last night, the Penn State University Board of Trustees made the stunning announcement that it had fired Paterno, along with university president, Graham Spanier, over their handling of child sex abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
According to a grand jury report released by Pennsylvania investigators earlier this week, Paterno, 84, heard a graphic retelling in 2002 from a then-graduate assistant coach of an alleged incident of child sexual abuse committed by Sandusky in the shower of the Penn State football building. Though Paterno reported the allegation to his superiors, he did not pursue the matter further. Those superiors spoke to Sandusky, and banned him from bringing children onto the Penn State main campus (though Sandusky himself was not banned from campus, and he was also allowed to run a youth football camp at a satellite campus for another six years).
In the wake of the report's release, Paterno tried to calm the growing furor prompted by his role in the debacle by announcing his retirement at the end of this season. But the Board of Trustees, which was reportedly planning Paterno's exit, did not allow him to control the timing of his departure.
"The university is much larger than its athletic teams," board vice chair John Surma said during a packed press conference last night.
“I am disappointed with the Board of Trustees' decision, but I have to accept it. 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 said in a statement reacting to the announcement.
Some of that "support" included rioting among some Penn State students in State College, Pennsylvania, last night. According to various media reports, angry students flipped over a television van, knocked a lamppost onto a car, threw toilet tissue and rocks at police and set off fireworks.
Sandusky, who retired from his position with Penn State at the end of the 1999 football season, but maintained an office at the university's main campus until 2007, was indicted last week for allegedly abusing 8 boys over a period of 15 years. Sandusky came into contact with the children through his Second Mile Foundation charity, and some of the alleged abuse incidents occurred on the Penn State campus.
Two Penn State officials, athletic director Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz, PSU's senior vice president for finance and business, were arrested this week and charged with perjury and failure to report to authorities what they knew of the allegations, as required by state law in Pennsylvania. Both have resigned their positions with the university.
Earlier this week, Pennsylvania state law enforcement officials said that while Paterno had met his legal obligation in alerting his superiors, he failed on a moral level by not doing more. The same officials also charged that inaction on the part of Penn State University allowed more children to become victims of abuse at the hands of Sandusky.
Paterno, the winningest coach in college football, had served as Nittany Lion's head coach for 46 years. Up until this point, he was among the most well-respected coaches in the sport, and had a reputation for upholding the highest in ethics and integrity.