The career of a legendary figure in the North American sports scene has ended in scandal and disgrace. The governing board of Penn (Pennsylvania) State University fired head football coach Joe Paterno late Wednesday night, days after a former member of his coaching staff was arrested on charges of sexually molesting several young boys.
Penn State's board of trustees held a meeting to address the scandal that had plagued the college and its storied football program since last week's arrest of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of abusing eight boys over more than a decade.
One of those alleged incidents occurred in 2002 at Penn State's athletic facilities. A student assistant on Paterno's staff says he witnessed Sandusky abusing a ten-year-old in the Penn State showers. He immediately informed Paterno. The coach has come under intense scrutiny and criticism for not informing outside authorities about the incident, although he informed the school's athletic director and a vice president.
The 84-year-old Paterno issued a statement Wednesday saying "I wish I had done more" to further address the situation, and announced his intention to retire at the end of this season after 46 years as head coach. But eventually, that was not enough for the board of trustees.
"Joe Paterno is no longer the head football coach, effective immediately," John Surma, the vice chairman of the board of trustees, stated.
Surma also announced the dismissal of Penn State president Graham Spanier during Wednesday's meeting.
Paterno is facing no criminal charges in the case, but the two officials whom he informed of the alleged incident have been charged with failing to report it to authorities.
Affectionately known as "Joe Pa," Paterno is a sports icon in the state of Pennsylvania for turning a rural college into a national sports powerhouse. Paterno is ending his career with 409 victories -- the most by any major college football coach -- and two national championships. He guided the Penn State football program to five unbeaten seasons, and 24 victories in post-season bowl games.