NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The ouster of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has got folks across talking across the Tri-state area.
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Paterno and Penn State University president Graham Spanier were fired late Wednesday night by the school’s board of trustees amid the growing furor over how the school handled child sex abuse allegations against Paterno’s former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
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Paterno said he was fired over the phone.
In a statement, Paterno said “I am disappointed with the board of trustees’ decision, but I have to accept it. I appreciate the outpouring of support but want to emphasize that everyone should remain calm and please respect the university, its property and all that we value.”
Comments have been pouring in to the CBS New York Facebook page since Paterno’s dismissal was announced and reactions have been mixed.
“They didn’t want him to ‘retire,'” Violet Collura posted. “They wanted him fired in disgrace.”
“Thank you Penn State Trustees for showing that character is worth more than bowl money,” posted Christina Walsh.
“Children are more important than football. Period,” Laurie McDowell Newsome posted.
“What ever happen to innocent til proven otherwise,” asked Bruce Tsukroff in his post.
Many students at Penn State were shocked and angry over the board’s decision to fire the winningest coach in major college football.
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Some overturned a news van, smashed car windshields, toppled a lamppost and even threw rocks at cops, witnesses said.
Riot police eventually used tear gas to disperse the crowd around 2 a.m.
About 100 students also gathered outside Paterno’s house. His wife, Sue, blew kisses and spoke to the crowd.
“You’re all so sweet. And I guess we have to go beat Nebraska without being there,” she said teary-eyed. “We love you all. Go Penn State.”
Paterno also spoke outside his home late Wednesday night. “Right now, I’m not the football coach. And I’ve got to get used to that,” he said. “After 61 years, I’ve got to get used to it.”
Earlier in the day, Paterno had announced he was going to retire at the end of the season.
“The university is much larger than its athletic teams,” board vice chair John Surma said during Wednesday night’s news conference. “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.”
Asked what the 84-year-old Paterno did wrong, Surma said: “I can’t characterize that. We thought because of the difficulties that have engulfed our university, it was necessary to make changes.”
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will serve as interim coach while Rodney Erickson will be the interim school president.
Paterno has come under harsh criticism, including from within the community known as Happy Valley, for not taking more action in 2002 after then-graduate assistant and current assistant coach Mike McQueary came to him and reported seeing Sandusky in the Penn State showers with a 10-year-old boy. Paterno notified the athletic director, Tim Curley, and a vice president, Gary Schultz.
Sandusky has been criminally charged with sexually assaulting eight young boys over a 15-year period.
Paterno is not a target of the criminal investigation, although Curley and Schultz have been charged with failing to report the incident to the authorities.
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