The Pennsylvania State University is without its longtime president and iconic football coach, effective immediately.
The Penn State Board of Trustees announced its unanimous decision to fire former University President Graham Spanier and former head football coach Joe Paterno Wednesday night.
Executive Vice President and Provost Rodney Erickson and assistant football coach Tom Bradley will serve as interim university president and interim head football coach, respectively.
The decision — which trustees said was made in the best long-term interest for students — comes five days after the release of the grand jury presentment describing alleged incidents of sexual abuse of children by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
The Penn State Board of Trustees met at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel. Board of Trustees Vice Chairman John Surma read the announcement and then fielded questions for twenty minutes.
The board felt it made the right decision under the circumstances, he said.
“We hope in the long run, students will agree the direction the trustees have taken is in the best interests of the students,” Surma said.
Shortly after Surma’s announcement, Paterno released a statement, expressing his disappointment at the decision, but urged the Penn State community to remain loyal to the university and what it stands for.
“I have been incredibly blessed to spend my entire career working with people I love,” Paterno said. “I am grateful beyond words to all of the coaches, players and staff who have been a part of this program. And to all of our fans and supporters, my family and I will be forever in your debt.”
Paterno was told of the trustees’ decision via phone, Surma said, though he declined to comment on Paterno’s reaction.
“[Paterno] has made a great contribution to the university, we all agree on that,” Surma said.
Earlier Wednesday, Paterno released a statement that he would resign at the end of the 2011 season.
“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 in the statement. “I have the same goal today. That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season.”
Assistant coach Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who witnessed an alleged sexual incident in the Lasch Building, remains on the coaching staff, Surma said.
Surma said he did not know if Penn State would be paying the legal fees for former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz.
Curley and Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report abuse. Curley remains on administrative leave.
Spanier released a statement following the announcement, saying he felt it was best for him to step aside so that his successor could move forward without distractions.
It has been a “privilege and an honor” to work at Penn State, he said in the statement.
“This University is a large and complex institution, and although I have always acted honorably and in the best interests of the University, the buck stops here,” Spanier said in the statement.
-- Collegian staff writers Matt Baumann, Brittany Horn, Anna Orso, Megan Rogers, and Kristin Stoller contributed to this report