From Retired to Fired – Paterno Out at Penn State

Both Amos Alonzo Stagg and Joe Paterno will remain deadlocked at 548 for the most games coached in college football.

Wednesday evening, the Board of Trustees of Penn State University unanimously fired Joe Paterno, effective immediately. Dr. Graham Spainer is on the Board. He and the Board mutually agreed that Spanier is no longer the President of Penn State.

Tom Bradley, a coach on Paterno’s staff since 1979, and a former defensive back for the Nittany Lions during the time that Jerry Sandusky was Defensive Coordinator, was named the interim Head Coach. Mark Sherburne, a former Nittany Lion player in the 1980s and recently the Assistant Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Services, was named in the interim Athletic Director.

Paterno learned of his fate by telephone directly from the Board.


The announcement was made during a news conference that followed the Board’s deliberations. John P. Surma, the Vice-Chairman of the Board, and also CEO and board chairman of U.S. Steel, held court after making his brief announcement of the Board’s decision.

John Surma fielding questions at the press conference. Behind him are members of the Penn State Board of Trustees.

Almost all of the questions from the gathered ‘reporters’ seemed to be from rather angry Paterno supporters. It created a surreal atmosphere, broadcast live on ESPN and CNN.

[At the end of this post is the video of the complete statement and press conference, as posted on Outkick The Coverage]

Shortly thereafter, live video on CNN showed Penn State students protesting the decision. Shouts of “F*ck the Trustees” were audible. Later, students and others took to the streets, and among other things, a streetlight pole was knocked over and a news truck was flipped over and windshield smashed. Many blame the media for what has happened to their beloved coach and football program.

Later, Paterno himself appeared outside his house to speak briefly with media and adoring students. He said that “Right now, I’m not the football coach, and that’s something I have to get used to.” Afterwards, Sue Paterno, the former head coach’s wife, also made an appearance and was visibly upset.


Paterno tried to go out on his own terms when, earlier in the day, he announced that he would resign after the end of the season. His plan was trumped by the Board of Trustees who had a different plan.

Joe Paterno surrounded by students and other supporters at his home on Tuesday night. Photo from The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Penn State University — not the football program, but the university — is in one hell of a mess, a mess of their own making. Someday we will find out who knew what and when, who did what, and what was not done. But during the last few days, many of those involved in this sordid tragedy — students, coaches, fans, boosters, and others connected with the school — were seen trying to defend the un-defendable, trying to justify the un-justifiable.

It has been a circus where the world was turned upside down. Football became more important than the victims — the victims — some of whom were victimized on campus by Jerry Sandusky, who had been given unlimited access to university facilities by school officials, and instead of being turned in to law enforcement officials, merely had some of those privileges taken away.

Beyond the crimes that were committed, and those directly involved in those acts, this tragic situation is about power and its structure, and how power continued to perpetuate itself. The power at Penn State University was used to protect those who had power, not to protect those that did not.


This tragedy is not over, but rather is just now unfolding.

This is about much more than Paterno’s debated moral failures. There are many people who failed the victims, some more than others.

What’s at stake is the entire power structure of the university itself, and how that structure is intertwined with the money that pours into college athletics.

What will likely come to light is what some of us who are old enough to remember (from Watergate and Iran-Contra) as “plausible deniability,” a willfully devious way for the powerful to cover up what they do not want exposed — a way to deny a fact or allegation, or to deny previous knowledge of a fact.

Receive only limited information so the powerful can wash their hands. The upper levels of power in effect contain the blame to the lower levels. Confirming responsibility of those in the highest positions of power becomes nearly impossible. They simply deny any awareness of the act or any connection to the people involved in the act.


The sad part of all this is that the victims seem disconnected from this unfolding story. The victims appear as a mere footnote to the inevitable cowardly cover-up. Hopefully, someday, they will displace everything else as the real story.




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3 responses to “From Retired to Fired – Paterno Out at Penn State”

  1. Chris Ross says :

    Great post. I’m really glad they did the right thing and fired him. They finally showed that Paterno isn’t truly the guy in power and it would have been really sad if they didn’t fire him. No one should feel sympathetic or sorry for Paterno. The students shouldn’t be chanting his name or calling for a proper send-off. After Paterno’s ego very foolishly decided not to retire immediately, this is exactly the way it had to end. Also, you think you could check out my blog cuz I’d love to hear what you have to say

  2. Elissa Winston says :

    I will say this first; I am saddened to hear about the Penn state scandle. It is so hard to believe that a coach could do those things to those children for all those years while his superiors ignored it. I understand that the players now as well as some of the schoool community are taking the coaches side, but I can’t be anything but mad that something was not done sooner.
    I guess as long as the team keeps winning and the money keeps flowing in then there is never a problem. It is such a sick thing if you really think about it.

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