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Penn State fires Joe Paterno

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Penn State fires Joe Paterno
An employee at the Pennsylvania State Attorney General's office places signs prior to a press conference on the Jerry Sandusky child-sex crimes investigation at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on November 7, 2011. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Nov. 9 (UPI) -- The Penn State University board of trustees dismissed Joe Paterno Wednesday, ending the career of the winningest coach in college football history.

Paterno was fired and school President Graham Spanier resigned in the aftermath of a child abuse scandal involving former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

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Athletic Director and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz have been indicted on a charge of perjury, having allegedly led to a grand jury concerning what they knew of the incident involving Sandusky.

Police have said Paterno, 84, is not facing criminal charges. His career ended in disgrace, however, because he did not actively attempt to see that justice was done in a timely manner.

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Paterno announced early Wednesday he would resign at the end of the season, but when the board met later in the evening, its members decided that was not enough.

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"The decision was difficult, but in the unanimous view of the trustees it was necessary for the long term interests of the university," said John Surma, vice chairman of the board.

Spanier admitted a change at the top of the school's administration was needed.

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"Penn State and its board of trustees are in the throes of dealing with and recovering from this crisis," the former school president said in a statement. "Although I have always acted honorably and in the best interests of the university, the buck stops here.

"In this situation, I believe it is in the best interests of the University to give my successor a clear path for resolving the issues before us."

A crowd of mostly students estimate by NBC News at around 1,000 gathered on the Penn State campus Wednesday night to protest the board's decision. At times, the crowd chanted, "We want Joe."

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Paterno was in his 46th season as coach of the Nittany Lions, having been a part of 409 victories. His teams went unbeaten five times and won national championships in 1982 and 1986.

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Prior to the board's action, Paterno issued a statement to go along with the announcement he planned to step down at the end of the season.

"I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case," he said. "I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.

"I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today. That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season."

Paterno allegedly learned Sandusky had been caught in 2002 having anal intercourse with an at-risk 10-year-old boy in the shower at the Nittany Lions' practice center. Paterno notified the athletic director at the time, but took no further action.

"This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more," Paterno said. "My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this university."

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Sandusky, 67, once considered Paterno's heir apparent, was arrested Saturday, charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing eight boys from 1994 through 1999. He was freed on $100,000 bail pending trial and could face life in prison if convicted. The university banned him from campus.

Paterno was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame four years ago, and a bronze statue of him stands outside the Lions' Beaver Stadium.

The Nittany Lions, with an 8-1 record -- 5-0 in the Big Ten Conference -- face the 7-2 Nebraska Cornhuskers in a home game at noon Saturday.

In announcing the dismissal of Paterno and Spanier, the board said defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will be interim head coach for the rest of the '11 season.

The board said an investigation would be undertaken by the school to determine where failures occurred and who was responsible.

"Penn State has always strived for honesty, integrity and the highest moral standards in all of its programs," the board said in a statement. "We will not tolerate any violation of these principles. We educate over 95,000 students every year and we take this responsibility very seriously. We are dedicated to protecting those who are placed in our care. We promise you that we are committed to restoring public trust in the university."

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