Joe Paterno, the winningest football coach in NCAA Division I history and once widely considered the most popular state employee (if not person, period) in all of Pennsylvania, will retire from the only head coaching job he has ever held at season's end, according to Associated Press reports.
A Penn State University fixture for 62 years, including 46 as its head coach, Paterno has come under fire in recent days for his handling of sex-crime allegations involving former longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. In 2002, a graduate assistant reported to Paterno that he had witnessed Sandusky with a boy believed to be about 10 years old in the showers of the on-campus Lasch Center. The witness, Mike McQueary, currently serves as Paterno's receivers coach.
Paterno is believed to have done nothing illegal, reporting the incident through appropriate channels. However, revelations that Sandusky continued to visit the Penn State campus, where he still maintained an office - and did so as recently as last week - have created a public outcry that more wasn't done to stop the former coach, who allegedly committed more sex crimes against minors following the 2002 incident. In a statement issued earlier today, Paterno said, "I wish I had done more."
Sports Illustrated posted "Joe Paterno Must Go Now" as its top online story yesterday afternoon, and it remained in that position as of this morning. (It has since been replaced by the retirement story.)
Despite notching his record-setting 409th win Oct. 29, Paterno's active involvement in the day-to-day operations of his program has waned in recent years, as has his support as a head coach among Penn State loyalists. Retirement seemed all but imminent for the 84-year-old, whose contract was set to expire after this season. However, his exit under the current circumstances represents a long fall from grace for a man who gave so many years and millions of dollars to the university. His program has never been cited for a major NCAA violation.
Paterno is expected to coach the 12th-ranked Nittany Lions during their final home game Saturday against No. 19 Nebraska.
Earlier this week, Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz stepped down from their positions amid charges that they perjured themselves before a grand jury investigating the Sandusky case. Sandusky was charged over the weekend with molesting eight boys between 1994 to 2009.