By Wednesday morning, through, Paterno had decided to step down. In his resignation statement, Paterno called the scandal “one of the great sorrows of my life,” saying, “I grieve for the children and their families,” he said, “and I pray for their comfort and relief.”
Paterno also took the extraordinary step of acknowledging his regret for not doing more to stop the abuse. According to a 23-page grand jury report, Paterno was informed by a graduate assistant in 2002 of an incident in which Sandusky had allegedly molested a boy in the showers at Penn State’s locker room, which the graduate assistant — later identified as Mike McQueary, currently Penn State’s wide receivers coach — had witnessed.
According to the grand jury report, Paterno reported the matter to his immediate superior, Athletic Director Tim Curley, but did not report it to the authorities — an oversight that has led to outrage nationally, with countless columnists and pundits calling for Paterno’s immediate ouster. Curley and another administrator, senior vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz, were charged with perjury and were removed from their jobs.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would investigate the university’s handling of the Sandusky case.
Paterno, in his resignation statement earlier Wednesday, sounded defiant about his intention of finishing out this season — the Nittany Lions could have as many as five games remaining, including the Big Ten championship game and a bowl game — saying, “At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.”
In an apparent signal of the university’s distancing itself from Paterno, his statement was not released through the school, and it did not appear on either the university’s main Web site or that of the athletic department. Instead, it appeared to have been released through an outside public relations firm.
Paterno informed administrators of his resignation Wednesday morning, then called a team meeting to inform his players — a meeting that ended with Paterno receiving a standing ovation, according to offensive lineman Chima Okoli.
“His last words,” Okoli said on a teleconference with reporters, “were definitely ones we hung on.”
Paterno then oversaw the team’s afternoon practice. Saturday’s game is not only a crucial one in the Nittany Lions’ quest for the conference title — Penn State is ranked No. 12 nationally in the Associated Press poll, and Nebraska is ranked No. 19 — but it is also senior day, in which, by tradition, the team’s departing seniors are honored before the game.
The game will go on as scheduled, but for the first time in more than 45 years the Nittany Lions will be coached by someone other than Joe Paterno.
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Photos: Paterno’s career at an end
Video: Paterno speaks to crowd after firing