After 46 seasons in Happy Valley, legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno has released a statement announcing his retirement effective at the end of the season.
The announcement comes in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal that has implicated university officials, centered around an ongoing investigation into former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s alleged abuse of young boys in his Second Mile nonprofit organization.
“I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case,” Paterno said in a statement released Wednesday. “I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.”
The 84-year-old Paterno has won more than 400 games with the Nittany Lions since taking over as head coach in 1966. Since then, there have been 885 coaching changes in college football. Penn State hasn’t made one.
Penn State currently sits atop the Big Ten’s Leaders division with a 5-0 conference record.
The statement was Paterno’s first public release regarding the Sandusky case since the findings of a grand jury investigation were released on Saturday.
“I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care,” Paterno said. “I have the same goal today.
“That’s why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. 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.”
Paterno was reportedly was made aware of a situation involving Sandusky and a young boy in the showers at the Penn State football facility nine years ago. A graduate assistant notified Paterno, and Paterno gave the report to Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, saying the graduate assistant had seen Sandusky “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to the boy.”
Sandusky was told not to bring any more children from the Second Mile to campus.
“This is a tragedy,” Paterno said. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
This week, Curley and Gary Schultz, the senior vice president for finance and business at Penn State, were charged with perjury and failure to report to authorities what they knew. Sandusky has been arrested for 40 counts of sexual abusing boys.
Penn State has not commented on whether it will allow Paterno to finish the season, which he said he plans to do. The Nittany Lions — and Paterno — have their last home game of the season against Nebraska this Saturday.
According to reports, Paterno met with his coaching staff and players at the university’s football building before practice on Tuesday. Peering over the podium, Paterno notified the team of his departure.
Some players were in tears as Paterno walked out — they gave him a standing ovation.
“I still can’t believe it,” said junior Nittany Lions quarterback Stephon Morris. “I’ve never seen Coach Paterno like that in my life.”
And after 46 seasons, it will be Paterno’s last appearance at Beaver Stadium.
— This is a developing story. Keep posted to michigandaily.com for updates throughout the day.