Students riot after Coach Joe Paterno fired

© Associated Press Photo
© Associated Press Photo
© Associated Press Photo
© Associated Press Photo
© Associated Press Photo
© Associated Press Photo
© Associated Press Photo
© Associated Press Photo

STATE COLLEGE, PA (RNN) - Police in riot gear confronted hundreds of Penn State students who took to the streets overnight Wednesday after the Penn State Board of Trustees fired football coach Joe Paterno.

The students flooded downtown State College after Paterno and university President Graham Spanier were fired amid a growing furor linked to their handling of sex abuse allegations against a former assistant football coach.

Crowds toppled a television news van and at least one photographer has been pelted with a rock.

Officers used pepper spray to control the crowd. Some students chanted `We want Joe! We want Joe!" Others kicked in the windows out of the toppled news van.

Paterno had announced earlier in the day he planned to retire after the season and expressed remorse for not having done more after he learned of the sex assault allegations.

The university's board of trustees voted Wednesday night to terminate both Paterno and President Graham Spanier in the wake of a sex abuse scandal that rocked the Nittany Lion football program.

"These decisions were made after careful deliberations and in the best interests of the university as a whole," said John Surman, vice chairman of the board.

"Penn State has always strived for honesty, integrity and the highest moral standards in all of our activities. We promise you we are committed to restore public trust of our university."

Surman said the decision by the board was unanimous and that Paterno was notified of the firing over the phone. 

A graduate assistant coach testified to a grand jury that he told Paterno in 2002 that he saw former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in a shower at the football facility at the university. Paterno reported the incident to the athletic director, but has been heavily criticized for not following up when little was done about it.

Paterno, the winningest coach in college football history, announced early Wednesday that he would retire at the end of the season. The board of trustees decision means Paterno will not be on sidelines for the Nittany Lion's game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will take over on an interim basis.

Provost Rod Erickson was named interim president of the university.

Sandusky, a long-time assistant and the one-time heir apparent to succeed Paterno as the Nittany Lions' head coach, has been charged by a grand jury with 40 criminal counts accusing him of molesting eight young boys between 1994 and 2009. Sandusky retired from PSU in 1999 but still had access to the university's athletic facilities through his charity for at-risk youth.

[Read the full 23-page Sandusky grand jury report]

After the announcement, students gathered outside Paterno's home, chanting their support for the ousted coach. Just after midnight Thursday, Paterno briefly greeted them and urged them to "pray for the victims."

Other demonstrations breaking out around State College were not so peaceful. A satellite truck from an Altoona, PA television station was overturned and members from various media outlets reported being hit by rocks.  

Paterno began his head coaching career at Penn State in 1966. He first came to  Happy Valley as an assistant coach in 1950. Throughout the span of his career, he amassed 409 wins as well as two national championships. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

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