The Penn State board of trustees fired legendary head coach Joe Paterno Wednesday night, saying it was in the best interest of the university to make the change. Trustees also announced that the president of the university, Graham B. Spanier, stepped down amid sexual abuse allegations of a former assistant coach.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bardley was named interim head coach.
The firing of the 84-year-old coach won’t allow Paterno to finish the remainder of the season, after he announced Wednesday afternoon that he would retire at the end of the year.
Trustees, however, decided to end Paterno’s coaching career in the middle of his 46th season with the Nittany Lions.
“In our view,” Dr. John Surman, the head of the board said according to the NY Daily News, “things had reached a point where we thought a change was necessary. We thought because of the difficulties that engulfed our university and they were great we thought it was time for a new direction.” He said the “unanimous” decision was in the “best interest of the university as a whole.”
Paterno discovered the news over the phone, trustees said.
Spanier, now the outgoing president, will be replaced by provost Rodney Erickson for the time being.
On his president’s page on the university website, Spanier said he considers the “Penn State presidency to be the single most attractive leadership position in American higher education.”
In the middle of the press conference, students started to flood parts of the campus in support of Paterno, according to CNN.
During a live report at State College, PA, the network showed footage of students gathering in mass, chanting “Joe Paterno” and singing Penn State’s fight song. Some chanted “We want Joe.”
Both men have faced heavy scrutiny since a grand jury report was released detailing alleged sexual abuse of young boys by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. He is being charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.
According to the grand jury report, a graduate assistant, who said he witnessed Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in the showers of the Penn State locker room, notified Paterno of the alleged abuse after contacting his father. The coach then told his superiors about the allegations.
Athletic Director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz have been charged with failing to notify authorities after they were told of the assault. Both have stepped down.
“This is a tragedy,” Paterno said on Wednesday. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
–With Associated Press