Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was fired Wednesday night by the university's board of trustees amid a sex assault scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The board of trustees also fired Penn State President Graham Spanier.
The board's action ended Paterno's 46-year run as Penn State's head coach and one of the most successful careers in college football history that spanned from nearly World War II to this season. It came only hours after Paterno announced he would retire at the end of the season.
Paterno was informed over the phone Wednesday evening, John P. Surma, the board's vice chairman, told reporters at a packed, late-night news conference.
In our view, things had reached a point where we had to make a change for the best long-term interest of Penn State, Surma said.
Paterno reacted outside of his house, where students had gathered after the press conference.
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.
Students chanted, among other things, We love you, Joe! and Thanks for everything! And they gathered across campus following the announcement to show support for Paterno.
Paterno released a full statement about two hours after the board's decision.
I am disappointed with the board of trustees' decision, but I have to accept it, Paterno's statement read.
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.
I have been incredibly blessed to spend my entire career working with people I love. I am grateful beyond words to all of the coaches, players and staff who have been a part of this program. And to all of our fans and supporters, my family and I will be forever in your debt.
On Beaver Avenue, center of the student gatherings, Connor Ward, a senior at Penn State, told the International Business Times that most of the reaction was peaceful.
But a few moments turned ugly. Notably, a group of students flipped over a news van from local television station WTAJ. Ward also said that he heard reports of a lightpost being torn down.
There are literally upwards of 10,000 kids between downtown and Old Main, which is where the administration is, Ward said in a phone interview after midnight on Thursday. It really is a sight to see.
Ward compared the scene to similar situations after Penn State football beat Ohio State in 2008 and when students gathered after Osama bin Laden's death. But he said this night was bigger than either of them.
This surmounts both of those, by far, he said. Words cannot describe what's going on.
Surma told reporters the board's decision to fire Paterno was unanimous, adding later that the coach made a great contribution to this university.
Surma said the board surmised that Paterno and Spanier had not done enough to report Sandusky to authorities. Sandusky was indicted Saturday on 40 counts of sex abuse and allegedly molested eight young boys.
Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz also were brought up on charges of perjury and failure to report a crime. Schultz retired, and Curley has taken a leave of absence.
Penn State's current defensive coordinator, Tom Bradley, will serve as interim head coach, Surma said. Provost Rodney Erickson was named interim president.
Our view is a larger view of what's necessary to move the university forward in the right direction, Surma said.
Paterno's involvement in the incident dates back to 2002, when, reportedly, then-graduate assistant and current receivers coach Mike McQueary reported to Paterno that he saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy - Victim 2 in the report - in the Penn State locker room.
Paterno reported the incident to Curley, and Curley and Schultz subsequently met with McQueary. McQueary was never questioned by university or other police. No other investigation began until McQueary testified to a grand jury in December 2010.
Sandusky founded The Second Mile, which became a charity that aided children of broken or absent families. His charity is where he allegedly met many of the young boys.
Before his dismissal Wednesday, Paterno said he wished he had done more than simply reporting the incident to Curley.
This is a tragedy, he said in a statement announcing his retirement at the end of the season. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.
Near Paterno's house in State College, Ward summed up the day as really sad, the culmination of a series of days that left a black eye on the university. But he added that the student reaction reflected the true nature and the full spectrum of Paterno's influence during his tenure at Penn State.
There are mixed feelings across campus as to what's going on, he said. But ultimately, I think the campus, while they recognize JoePa wasn't right in his actions, that he should not be the scapegoat. It seems like everyone's just blaming Joe for everything.
I think the student reaction tonight shows that everyone has his back. You can't disregard 60 years of philanthropy and service to not only the university, but to educating young people in general.
Paterno came to Penn State as a 23-year-old assistant in 1950 and became the Nittany Lions' head coach in 1966. In his tenure, Penn State has completed five undefeated seasons and won two national championships.
Raw video of the rallies below: