Joe Paterno was fired from the Penn State sideline yesterday during his 46th season as head coach at the university.
Paterno earlier in the day said he would retire at the end of the season. While many media types had called for the head coach to tender his resignation immediately, his players — the ones still in contention for a Big 10 championship — wanted him to stay.
Yesterday, they gave Paterno a standing ovation after he informed the team of his decision to retire. The 84-year-old broke down in tears.
“I never thought I’d hear those words coming from Joe Paterno’s mouth,” said fullback Michael Zordich, whose father played under disgraced defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. “I don’t believe he’s stepping down solely because of this. The power that he has, to be that selfless, and put this program in front of him and try to clear the program’s name, it’s unbelievable to me and I can’t even tell you how much respect I have for that man.”
The Nittany Lions play their last home game of the season against No. 19 Nebraska. Many students had rallied around the coach, who with his thick, black-rimmed glasses and blue windbreaker has been the face of Penn State football for generations.
“This is a tragedy. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more,” Paterno said in a statement earlier in the day. “My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this university.”