Penn State president blames scandal on Sandusky

"It grieves me very much when I hear people say 'the Penn State scandal,'" Rodney Erickson said. "This is the Sandusky scandal."

Story highlights

  • 'This is not Penn State. This is the Sandusky scandal," university president says
  • The renowned football coach was removed from his job in November
  • Paterno's dismissal came amid a sex abuse scandal involving a former assistant
  • Scandal led to the university president's firing and criminal charges against two officials

Penn State University President Rodney Erickson tried to distance the school from the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the campus as he spoke to angry alumni Thursday night.

"It grieves me very much when I hear people say 'the Penn State scandal.' This is not Penn State. This is the (Jerry) Sandusky scandal," Erickson said.

The town hall meeting in a hotel in suburban Philadelphia comes the same day Penn State revealed it is paying long-time coach Joe Paterno as if he retired at the end of the season, even though the university relieved him of his coaching duties on November 9.

During the meeting, most of the questions revolved around the firing of Paterno. Crowds booed Erickson several times.

In a statement earlier Thursday, the chairman and vice chairman of the board of trustees said Paterno was removed as head football coach because he "could not be expected to continue to effectively perform his duties" amid sexual abuse allegations involving Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator.

"Coach Paterno remains employed by the university as a tenured faculty member," said the statement by board Chairman Steve Garban and Vice Chairman John Surma. "The details of his retirement are being worked out and will be made public when they are finalized. Generally speaking, the university intends to honor the terms of his employment contract and is treating him financially as if he had retired at the end of the 2011 football season."

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Some university students, former players for the Nittany Lions and others were angered by the removal of Paterno, the 85-year-old coaching great who guided the team for 46 years and recorded the most wins in college football history.

    After Paterno's dismissal was announced in November, student protesters overturned a news van and vandalized streets around the campus before police dispersed them.

    Penn State was rocked by accusations that Sandusky had sexually abused young boys over 14 years and that school officials failed to take the complaints to police.

    University trustees dismissed Paterno and school President Graham Spanier after a grand jury report accused Sandusky of more than 50 counts of sexually abusing boys. Sandusky has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

    A Penn State graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, told the grand jury late last year that he had seen Sandusky "with a boy in the shower and that it was severe sexual acts going on and that it was wrong and over the line." He said he had gone to Paterno with what he saw.

    Paterno said he'd never been told the graphic details revealed in a grand jury report, but that he nevertheless passed the allegations on to his boss. After first saying he had done "what I was supposed to do," Paterno said that "with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

    It was years before law enforcement learned about the allegation.

    Then-Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, a former university vice president who oversaw campus police, now face charges of perjury and failing to report child sexual abuse.