Joe Paterno exit sparks Penn State fans riot

Media caption,
Students turned over a news van and reportedly threw rocks and bottles after Mr Paterno was fired

Penn State students have gone on the rampage after Joe Paterno, one of the most famous coaches in American sport, was sacked amid a child abuse scandal.

Mr Paterno, 84, has been accused of failing to act over allegations of molestation by a long-serving assistant, Jerry Sandusky.

University President Graham Spanier was also dismissed with immediate effect.

College football is hugely popular in the US, drawing massive TV audiences on Saturdays and filling vast stadiums.

Mr Paterno - who has won a record number of major college football games and two national championships - was in his 46th year as coach.

Missiles thrown

After the firings, thousands of students gathered outside a university administration building, chanting "Hell no, Joe won't go" and "We want Joe back".

Image caption,
Assistant coach Mike McQueary (L) told Joe Paterno (R) he saw Jerry Sandusky assault a boy

Scores of police and state troopers, some in riot gear, tried to clear the streets, and some officers used pepper spray to disperse demonstrators.

Witnesses say rocks and bottles were thrown, a lamp-post was knocked over and a news van overturned.

Police said they had identified numerous suspects that could be charged with riot or attempted arson through video footage.

They estimated the crowd approached 5,000 people.


About 100 students gathered at Mr Paterno's house in a show of support.

"Right now, I'm not the football coach. And I've got to get used to that," he told the crowd.

He announced on Wednesday that he would retire at the end of the season, saying he was "absolutely devastated" by the scandal that has rocked the sprawling campus at State College in central Pennsylvania.

But at a late-night news conference, university trustees announced that Mr Paterno had been sacked, along with Mr Spanier.

Vice-chairman of the board of trustees John Surma said: "In our view, we thought change now was necessary."

Neither Mr Paterno nor Mr Spanier has been implicated in the child abuse allegations, but they have been censured for failing to notify the authorities.

The Department of Education in Washington DC has said it is launching an investigation into whether Penn State failed to report incidents of sexual abuse on campus - a federal requirement.

'Moral responsibility'

It is alleged that former assistant football coach Mr Sandusky, 67, who was arrested at the weekend, sexually abused eight boys between 1994 and 2009.

Image caption,
Jerry Sandusky faces 40 criminal charges and was released on bail

A ninth possible victim, now in his 20s, has since come forward. Pennsylvania police have set up a telephone hotline for information about the sexual abuse allegations.

One of the football team's then-graduate assistants, Mike McQueary, told Mr Paterno he witnessed a sexual assault by Mr Sandusky on a boy as young as 10 in the Penn State locker room showers in 2002.

Mr Paterno said that after he was informed, he alerted the university's athletic director, Tim Curley, and senior vice-president Gary Schultz, who told Mr Spanier.

Mr Curley and Mr Schultz were charged on Monday with failing to report the suspected abuse and of perjury during their testimony before a grand jury.

Mr Sandusky retired from Penn State in 1999, but continued to use the university's facilities for his work with the Second Mile foundation, a charity for vulnerable children.

He is facing 40 criminal charges, and has been released on bail.

Mr Paterno said in a statement on Wednesday: "I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief."

He reportedly broke down in tears as he told his team he was leaving. Players gave him a standing ovation when he walked out.

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