After 46 years, the legendary coach announces he will leave at the end of the season

By Tim Nudd Stephen M. Silverman
November 09, 2011 07:55 AM
Gene Puskar/AP

Joe Paterno’s 46-year-run as head coach of the Penn State football team will come to an end when this season wraps up, he announced Wednesday morning.

“I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can,” he said in the statement.

The issue arose because of the widening sex-abuse scandal that has engulfed a former Paterno assistant.

Earlier, the university’s board of trustees had been discussing when, not if, the legendary 84-year-old coach should exit, sources told The New York Times.

Part of the issue was how much Paterno really knew about the nature of sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by Jerry Sandusky against eight boys before and after the assistant’s retirement in 1999.

RELATED: Mothers of Alleged Penn State Sex Abuse Victims Speak Out

In particular, Paterno has said he was not told in detail the graphic nature of an alleged 2002 assault by Sandusky, but sources familiar with that victim’s story have questioned that assertion.

Support for Paterno among Penn State students appeared to remain high, however. A throng of students crowded onto the front lawn of his house of Tuesday night to pledge their support for the coach, whose Nittany Lions have won two national championships during his tenure.

“I can’t tell you how much this means to me,” Parerno told the students, reports ESPN. “I’ve lived for this place. I’ve lived for people like you guys and girls.”

He also asked the students to say a prayer for the alleged victims, and added that “it’s a tough life when people do certain things to you.”

In his statement of resignation, the coach also said: “I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today.”

He added: “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. 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.”