“I think people woke up and realized life does go on,” said T.J. Bard, president of the student government, after addressing his fellow students. “There is more to this university than Joe Paterno. It’s time to pick up the pieces.”
It was Paterno’s firing late Wednesday night by the university’s Board of Trustees that set off the student protesters, several thousand strong, who tore down lamp posts, turned over a television-news truck and threw rocks and other objects at police — who at one point responded with pepper spray.
“Around campus, it’s just really a solemn atmosphere,” said Kyle Harris, a 21-year-old senior and public relations major. “Our whole world is being shattered.”
Paterno, 84, stayed out of sight of the media Thursday, even as his interim replacement, former defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, held a news conference at Beaver Stadium in which he said he takes over “with mixed emotions.” Both Paterno and Bradley had worked for years with Jerry Sandusky, the longtime Paterno assistant who has been charged with molesting at least eight boys between 1994 and 2009.
“Coach Paterno has meant more to me than anybody except my father,” Bradley said. “Most of you know him as a great football coach. I’ve had the privilege and honor to work for him, spend time with him. He's had such a dynamic impact on so many, so many — I'll say it again — so many people and players’ lives.”
The failure to properly report Sandusky’s alleged crimes led to perjury charges against two top university administrators, as well as, indirectly, the dismissals Wednesday night of Paterno and university President Graham Spanier. But some students still expressed frustration at the lack of firm answers surrounding the university’s role in the scandal.
“People are distrustful,” said Max Michaels, a 20-year-old junior from Gainesville, Fla. “Who knew what, [and] when? Was Paterno’s firing a knee-jerk reaction made by businessmen who were just out to protect their own interests?”
Those answers are not forthcoming. University officials have deflected such questions, citing the legal issues surrounding the case. No firm reason was given for Paterno’s ouster Wednesday night, and at Thursday’s news conference at Beaver Stadium, Bradley refused to answer any questions about Sandusky’s actions, saying he had been advised by counsel.