Penn State Trustees Fire Paterno, University President, in Wake of Sandusky Child Abuse Scandal

The nation’s most successful college football coach was fired following a unanimous Penn State trustee board vote. Joe Paterno, and Graham B. Spanier, the now-former university president, were told by telephone last night that they were being removed from their posts in the wake of an ongoing <"">sexual abuse scandal involving former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.

Sandusky, described by prosecutors as a serial pedophile, was charged with victimizing eight boys over 15 years. Tim Curley, the athletic director, and Gary Schultz, the senior vice president for finance and business at Penn, were arrested this week and charged with perjury and failing to report to authorities what they were aware of regarding allegations against Sandusky, said The Times, a mandate under Pennsylvania state law. Both have resigned.

At a news conference, John Surma Jr. the board’s vice chairman said, “We thought that because of the difficulties that engulfed our university, and they are grave, that it is necessary to make a change in the leadership to set a course for a new direction,” reported The New York Times. “We were unable to find a way to do that in person without causing further distraction,” The Associated Press (AP) reported.

Paterno, 84, who is not being charged, is not without his supporters. A lively, sometimes violent, response ensued; however, many, including Penn State’s Board of Trustees, felt that it was finally time to put an end to a scandal in which it was clear that a pedophile had free reign with the boys under his care because his employer either could not or would not stop his nefarious behaviors.

Paterno served as Penn State head coach for 46 years, leading the Nittany Lions to two national championships. He is renowned for having accumulated more wins than any other coach in college football history and was also revered—ironically—for being known as one of the most ethical coaches in the sport. This is, clearly, a humiliating end to an astounding career. Spanier had been university president since 1995.

Early yesterday, Paterno announced—it seems, without board approval—that he would retire at the end of the football season, but the unanimous board vote ousted Paterno before season’s end. “The past several days have been absolutely terrible for the entire Penn State community. But the outrage that we feel is nothing compared to the physical and psychological suffering that allegedly took place,” said Surma, wrote the AP.

As we’ve written, Paterno received a graphic description of sexual abuse Sandusky allegedly committed against a young boy in the shower in the Penn State football building from then-graduate assistant coach, Mike McQueary. Paterno reported the accusation to the school’s athletic director, but apparently did little else. The Pennsylvania grand jury report stated that former Athletic Director, Tim Curley, testified that after being informed of the allegation, he met with Sandusky and told him he was banned from bringing youth on to the Penn State campus. In truth, it seems that Sandusky, who left his assistant coaching position after the 1999 season, was permitted use of school facilities, maintaining an office there until 2007. Despite the ban at the main campus, Sandusky was allowed to operate a summer football camp for boys on a Penn State satellite campus for six years. The 2002 allegation was never brought to the police.

Paterno and Spanier, who was informed by Curley of the allegation and the ban imposed on Sandusky, have faced scathing criticism for their handling of the incident. 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.

The board said it will appoint a committee at its regular meeting Friday to investigate the “circumstances” that led to the indictments of Sandusky, Curley, and Schultz, who all maintain their innocence, said the AP. Governor Tom Corbett plans to be in attendance and said he will be looking at “what failures occurred and who is responsible and what measures are necessary to ensure” similar mistakes aren’t made again, reported the AP. The U.S. Department of Education also announced it launched an investigation to determine if Penn State neglected to report incidents of sexual abuse on campus, a requirement under federal law, said the AP.

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