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Penn State students take to streets after Paterno, president lose jobs

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some students tip over a news van
  • Spanier and Paterno are fired over a sex abuse scandal at Penn State University
  • The U.S. Department of Education is investigating the university
  • "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more," Paterno says

State College, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Hundreds spilled into the streets at Penn State early Thursday morning following news that football head coach Joe Paterno and the school's president lost their jobs over a child sex abuse scandal at the university.

What started as an apparent celebration of Paterno turned raucous, as the crowd tipped over a news van and decried the media. The university said on its Facebook page that police issued a dispersal order for the Old Main and downtown areas, and "everyone must vacate both areas immediately."

The disturbance came shortly after university trustees announced Wednesday night that Paterno, the winningest coach in major college football, and Penn State President Graham Spanier were out of their jobs, effective immediately.

"What can I say, I'm no longer the coach," Paterno told about 15 students gathered outside his house late Wednesday night. "It's going to take some time to get used to. It's been 61 years."

The crowd cheered and said, "We love you, Joe."

"I love you, too!" Paterno replied.

Paterno's wife, Sue, stood beside him on the front steps, visibly upset.

Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will serve as interim head coach. Rod Erickson, executive vice president and provost of the school, will be interim president, school officials said.

Spanier has been president of the school since 1995.

Stunned Penn State students congregated after the announcement.

Paterno got the news of the unanimous decision early Wednesday evening in a telephone call made by Steve Garban, chairman of Penn State's board of trustees.

Vice Chairman of Trustees John P. Surma said he hoped the school's 95,000 students and hundreds of thousands of alumni would believe the decision "is in the best long-term interest of the university, which is much larger than athletic programs."

Hours before the decision, Paterno, 84, issued a statement saying he was "absolutely devastated by the developments" involving a former assistant football coach and two university officials and that he would end his 46-year tenure as head football coach at the end of the season. The trustees decided to move that timetable up.

"I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief," Paterno said. "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

Paterno's contract was set to expire at the end of the season. Some had called for him to resign immediately because of his response to allegations brought to him in 2002 by a graduate assistant, who said he had seen retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, now 67, sexually assaulting a young boy in a shower at the campus football complex.

Paterno reported the allegations to his boss. Pennsylvania's attorney general said it appeared Paterno had met his obligations under state law, but critics have said the coach should have reported the suspected abuse to police.

Sandusky, who was arrested Saturday, is accused of sexual offenses, child endangerment and "corruption of a minor" involving eight boys, most or all of whom he met through The Second Mile, the charity he founded to help troubled youths, prosecutors said.

Two Penn State officials are accused of failing to report the alleged abuse.

The U.S. Department of Education said it will launch an investigation into whether Penn State failed to comply with an act requiring colleges and universities to disclose the number of reported criminal incidents on campus each year.

"If these allegations of sexual abuse are true then this is a horrible tragedy for those young boys. If it turns out that some people at the school knew of the abuse and did nothing or covered it up, that makes it even worse," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. "Schools and school officials have a legal and moral responsibility to protect children and young people from violence and abuse."

A tip line has been receiving calls from alleged victims of Sandusky, a source close to the investigation said, and police were attempting to verify the claims.

Penn State's board of trustees said it would create a special committee to investigate the child rape allegations, which became public last week with the release of a grand jury report.

Sandusky's involvement with The Second Mile provided him with access to "hundreds of boys, many of whom were vulnerable due to their social situations," the grand jury said. The former coach is said to have engaged in fondling, oral and anal sex with boys over at least 15 years, according to the investigative grand jury's summary of testimony.

The alleged abuse began in 2005 and lasted into 2008, and included overnight stays at Sandusky's home, according to grand jury testimony.

Sandusky, who served 23 years as defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions football team before retiring in 1999, is free on $100,000 bail.

CNN's Dana Garrett, Sarah Hoye, Stephanie Gallman, Jason Carroll, Jason Kessler, Laura Dolan and Kiran Khalid contributed to this report.

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