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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Joe Paterno, the Penn State football coach who preached success with honor for half a century but whose legend was shattered by a child sex abuse scandal, said Wednesday he will retire at the end of this season.
Paterno said he was “absolutely devastated” by the case, in which his one-time heir apparent, Jerry Sandusky, has been charged with molesting eight boys over 15 years, including at the Penn State football complex.
He said he hoped the team could finish its season with “dignity and determination.”
The trustees could still force him to leave immediately and could take action against university president, Graham Spanier.
Paterno said the school’s Board of Trustees, which had been considering his fate, should “not spend a single minute discussing my status” and has more important matters to address.
The beloved 84-year-old Paterno has been engulfed by outrage that he did not do more to stop Sandusky after a graduate assistant came to Paterno in 2002 after allegedly having seen the former assistant coach molesting a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State showers.
“This is a tragedy,” Paterno said in a statement. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
Paterno talked to his team for about 10-15 minutes in an auditorium of the football facility on campus. Standing at a podium, he told players he was leaving and broke down in tears.
Players gave him a standing ovation when he walked out.
The decision to retire by the man affectionately known as “Joe Pa” brings to an end one of the most storied coaching careers, not just in college football, but in all sports. Paterno won 409 games, a record for major college football, and is in the middle of his 46th year as coach.
His figure patrolling the sideline — thick-rimmed glasses and windbreaker, tie and khaki pants — was as unmistakable at Penn State as its classic blue and white uniforms and the name Happy Valley, a place where no one came close to Paterno’s stature.
The retirement announcement came three days before Penn State hosts Nebraska in its final home game of the season, a day set aside to honor seniors on the team.
Paterno has been questioned about how he acted when a graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, reported the incident to him in 2002.
Paterno notified Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz. Curley and Schultz have since been charged with failing to report the incident to the authorities.