Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) was among three Congressional representatives to rescind Joe Paterno's vote for the Presidential Medal of Freedon on Thursday. However, according to Thompson's communications director via e-mail, Thompson did not rescind his nomination. The story has been changed to reflect this. The error is regretted.
If things couldn't get any worse for Joe Paterno, Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) have rescinded their nomination of Paterno for the Presidential Medal of Freedom less than 24 hours after Paterno was fired as head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, according to the New York Daily News.
The withdrawal of the nomination comes amid Paterno's implication in the sex abuse scandal surrounding his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
Paterno, who was alerted in 2002 by Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant at the time and current receivers coach, that McQueary had seen Sandusky allegedly having anal sex with a 10-year-old boy in the showers of the football locker room, testified to a grand jury that he reported McQueary's allegations to school officials, but did not notify police. After the incident, Paterno allowed Sandusky, who no longer coached at the school, access to university facilities.
Just two months ago, the three senators sent a letter to President Obama recommending Paterno, the all-time Division I football leader in wins (409), for the award, while citing his substantial contributions to collegiate athletics, higher education and American society. But on Thursday, on the heels of Paterno losing his job and his legacy of 56 years over the past two days, he has lost any possible chance of achieving the nation's highest civilian honor.
We hope the proper authorities will move forward with their investigation without delay, said Toomey and Casey in a joint statement. Penn State is an important institution in our commonwealth. We should turn our attention to the victims of these atrocious crimes and ensure they get the help they need. Our hearts and prayers go out to them and their families.
The more information about the scandal that unraveled up to this point, the more Paterno was criticized -- including by those within the Happy Valley community -- for not doing more to stop the alleged abuse by Sandusky.
The school officials that Paterno notified in 2002 -- athletic director Tim Curley and Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz -- have been charged with failing to report the incident to police, despite the two reporting it to their own boss, president Graham Spanier. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, however, has not ruled out charges against Spanier.
Paterno himself is not a target of the criminal investigation, but the state police commissioner called his failure to contact police himself a lapse in moral responsibility.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who played for Paterno and has been on the football staff for 33 years, was appointed interim coach. According to ESPN, Bradley said he called Paterno after the firings Wednesday night but declined to divulge what was said. He did speak about his personal connection with Paterno, though.
Coach Paterno has meant more to me than anybody except my father, said Bradley. I don't want to get emotional talking about that. Coach Paterno will go down in history as one of the greatest men, who maybe most of you know as a great football coach. I've had the privilege and the honor to work for him, spend time with him. He's had such dynamic impact on so many, so many, I'll say it again, so many people and players' lives. It's with great respect that I speak of him and I'm proud to say that I worked for him.
Paterno said in his statement earlier Wednesday that he was absolutely devastated by the Sandusky case.
This is a tragedy, Paterno said. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.