UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State University announced tonight that it severed ties, effective immediately, with its two biggest figures -- football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier -- amid a child sex abuse scandal.
Mr. Paterno, who announced earlier today he would retire at the end of the season, will not survive to coach Saturday in the Nittany Lions' final home game of the season. He led Penn State's football program for 46 years. He was fired by the board of trustees during a closed-door meeting at the Penn Stater Conference Center tonight.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has been named interim coach.
Mr. Spanier, president since 1995, resigned amid allegations he failed to alert authorities to reports of a former assistant football coach's sexual abuse of children in Penn State facilities.
Penn State provost Rodney Erickson has been named interim president.
Mr. Paterno, with his wife Sue by his side, came to the door of his home at about 10:40 p.m. and addressed a group of 40 or so fans that had gathered on the front lawn of his modest home on McKee Street.
"Right now I'm not the coach, and I have to get used to that. I didn't think it was going to happen this way," he said, as he shook hands with the mix of students and adults, some with tears in their eyes, some who thanked him.
Spanier issued a statement that said, in part: "I was stunned and outraged to learn that any predatory act might have occurred in a University facility or by someone associated with the University.
"I am heartbroken to think that any child may have been hurt and have deep convictions about the need to protect children and youth. My heartfelt sympathies go out to all those who may have been victimized. I would never hesitate to report a crime if I had any suspicion that one had been committed.
"The acts of no one person should define this university. Penn State is defined by the traditions, loyalty and integrity of hundreds of thousands of students, alumni and employees.
"Penn State and its Board of Trustees are in the throes of dealing with and recovering from this crisis, and there is wisdom in a transition in leadership so that there are no distractions in allowing the University to move forward."
At the press conference earlier, John Surma, vice chair of the board of trustees said, "these decisions were made after careful deliberations and in the best interests of the university as a whole.
"The past several days have been absolutely terrible for the entire Penn State community. But the outrage that we feel is nothing compared to the physical and psychological suffering that allegedly took place," added Surma, CEO of US Steel and a 1976 graduate of Penn State. His son, Vic Surma, played for Paterno from 2002 to 2005.
"We thought that because of the difficulties that have engulfed our university, and they are great as you have documented, we thought it was necessary for us to make a change in leadership and set a course for a new direction," Surma said.
Crowds of students began gathering in front of Old Main on campus immediately after the announcement.
Kevin Harley, spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett said the governor would attend the board of trustees meeting Friday.
"The governor said [earlier Wednesday] that he wanted the board of trustees to act swiftly and strongly and they have done that. Now they need to go about the job of restoring trust and faith in the university for the students, the alumni and the citizens of Pennsylvania, who pay the taxes that support the university.''
The scandal erupted last weekend when former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who retired from the university in 1999, was charged with 40 counts related to the sexual abuse of children.
Athletic director Tim Curley has taken a paid leave of absence and university vice president Gary Schultz retired after allegations both lied to investigators and failed to report crimes. Both denied any wrongdoing.