STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Pennsylvania's two U.S. senators nominated Joe Paterno two months ago for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but Thursday said they withdraw the nomination.
The medal is the nation's highest civilian honor.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey made the announcement less than 24 hours after Paterno was fired by Penn State for allegedly failing to report an assistant to police for child molestation, Politico reported.
"We hope the proper authorities will move forward with their investigation without delay," Toomey and Casey said in a joint statement.
Toomey, Casey and U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., had sent a letter to President Barack Obama in September nominating Paterno for the medal, saying he had made "substantial contributions to collegiate athletics, higher education and American society," Politico said.
Meanwhile, Paterno said he is disappointed with the decision to fire him, but he "accepts it."
"A tragedy occurred, and we all have to have patience to let the legal process proceed," Paterno said Thursday in a statement. "I appreciate the outpouring of support but want to emphasize that everyone should remain calm and please respect the university, its property and all that we value."
Students took to the streets of State College, Pa., Wednesday after receiving word Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier both were let go Wednesday in the child sex scandal surrounding Paterno's former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Police said students threw rocks, toppled lamp posts and overturned a television news van before they were finally dispersed early Thursday.
Paterno said he considered himself "incredibly blessed" to have spent his entire career "working with people I love."
"I am grateful beyond words to all of the coaches, players and staff who have been a part of this program," Paterno said. "And to all of our fans and supporters, my family and I will be forever in your debt."
More than 1,500 students began their protests against the decision to fire the winningest coach in major college football history on campus and then moved downtown. Police responded by firing pepper spray.
Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley was named interim head coach, the university said. Executive Vice President and Provost Rodney Erickson will serve as acting president.
Sandusky, 67, a retired defensive coordinator who once was considered Paterno's heir apparent, was arrested Saturday and charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing eight boys in a 15-year period.
Paterno was widely criticized for not involving police -- although an indictment states he contacted Athletic Director Tim Curley -- when he 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.
Curley and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, who oversaw campus police, were indicted, charged with perjury and failure to report to authorities what they knew of the allegations as required by state law.