- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The day was always coming. The old coach was 84, and each new season brought questions whether it would be his last. No one, though, expected it to happen quite like this.

The Penn State board of trustees voted unanimously to fire football coach Joe Paterno Wednesday night amid the growing furor over how the school handled sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach. Penn State president Graham Spanier also was ousted.

The massive shakeup came at the end of a day that started with Paterno announcing he planned to retire at the end of his 46th season, saying he wanted to finish with “dignity and determination.” But the board decided he had to go immediately.

“The university is much larger than its athletic teams,” board vice chair John Surma said during a packed press conference.

Paterno and Spanier were informed of the decision by telephone.

“We were unable to find a way to do that in person without causing further distraction,” Surma said.

Earlier in the day a tearful Paterno, who won more games than any coach in major college football history, stood in an auditorium in the Penn State complex and told disbelieving players that he planned to retire at the end of the season.

Not because he was too old or couldn’t win anymore, but because of the child sex abuse scandal involving longtime assistant coach and onetime heir-apparent, Jerry Sandusky.

“Success With Honor” was ending in disgrace, and the tears flowed from behind the thick eyeglasses.

“In all the clips I’ve seen of him, I’ve never seen him break down and cry,” quarterback Paul Jones said. “And he was crying the whole time today.”

Cornerback Stephon Morris said some players also were nearly in tears themselves.

“I still can’t believe it. I’ve never seen Coach Paterno like that in my life,” Morris said.

“He spent his whole life here, and he dedicated everything to Penn State,” added safety Nic Sukay. “You could really feel that.”

Paterno said in a statement he was “absolutely devastated” by the case, in which Sandusky has been charged with molesting eight boys in 15 years, with some of the alleged abuse taking place at the Penn State football complex.

“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.”

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