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Penn State Ousts Paterno, Spanier

11:30 a.m. ET | Tom Bradley, a 33-year veteran of the Nittany Lions staff who was named as interim head coach, said Thursday morning in a new conference that he takes the helm from Paterno with “very mixed emotions.” He will debut as head coach in Saturday’s game against Nebraska.

The Penn State board of trustees have fired legendary football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier, making the announcement at a news conference Wednesday night.

Paterno, Spanier and other top university officials have been under intense criticism for not taking adequate measures to halt alleged child sexual abuse by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

Hundreds of angry Penn State students took to the streets in State College, Pa., tipping a television news van and knocking down a lamp post to protest the firing of the winningest coach in college football history. Police in riot gear used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

Students also converged on Paterno’s home, where he and his wife Sue, visibly emotional as she blew kisses to the crowd, greeted supporters. The New York Times reported:

Dressed in a baggy gray pullover sweater, Paterno waved his hand and started to walk back inside. A student yelled, “We are Penn State,” the frequent rallying cry. Paterno stopped and turned around to say: “That’s right. We are Penn State, don’t ever forget it.”

(See a slideshow of reaction to Paterno’s firing.)

Paterno, 84, had announced earlier in the day that he would retire after 46 seasons at the helm of Penn State’s football program. But at shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday night, John P. Surma, vice chairman of the board of trustees, made the announcement at a news conference that Paterno and Spanier would be sacked. Provost Rodney Erickson will step in as interim president, and defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will stand in as head coach.

Paterno described himself as “absolutely devastated” by the scandal in his retirement statement.

“This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more,” he wrote.

Penn State officials have said they will launch an inquiry into the events leading up to Sandusky’s indictment.

We’ll have more on the scandal at Penn State on Thursday’s NewsHour.

On Wednesday’s NewsHour, Ray Suarez discussed the possible legal ramifications for Penn State with trial lawyer Jeff Anderson:

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