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A cheerless announcement at the end of a celebrated career. Pennsylvania State University's storied football coach, Joe Paterno, says he'll retire at the end of the season. He makes that move as a scandal engulfs the Penn State program. The team's former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, faces charges of sexually abusing eight boys over a period of 15 years. Paterno calls the situation one of the great sorrows of his life.
NPR's Jeff Brady reports.
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: In the written statement, Paterno says, quote, "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
According to the grand jury charges, a graduate student who says he witnessed Sandusky molesting a boy in a locker room in 2002, came to Paterno's house the next day. The coach waited another day before reporting that to university officials. Critics have suggested that given his position in the community, Paterno should have gone straight to the police.
This Friday, the university's board of trustees is expected to meet and appoint a special committee to investigate the scandal. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett sits on that board and he had this to say about Jerry Sandusky and the allegations against him.
GOVERNOR TOM CORBETT: He who preys on a child is the worst type of person in the world, as far as I'm concerned. That's why I have urged the board to deal with this quickly and swiftly. Other comments have to wait until after the board meetings, until after they take an action.
BRADY: Meanwhile, several dozen reporters waited outside Joe Paterno's house all day, hoping rumors that he'd come out and make a statement were true. Penn State freshman Cameron Rowe stopped by the coach's house and put a letter of support in his mailbox. As he left, reporters ran to catch up with him and ask what he wrote in the letter.
CAMERON ROWE: Like, the sun will come up tomorrow and we'll always be Penn State. That's how I ended it. I have to get to class.
BRADY: On CNN this afternoon, the student body president for Penn State's largest campus, TJ Bard, responded to Paterno's resignation.
TJ BARD: I think students are shocked. They're very surprised at the announcement. I think a lot of students are heartbroken. We've heard stories of students leaving their classes in tears, students coming together and really just reflecting on Paterno's legacy and his career here at Penn State.
BRADY: It's difficult to overstate how strongly many students say they feel about Joe Paterno, or JoePa, as they call him. Last night more than a hundred rallied outside his house. Many used words typically reserved for close family to describe how they feel about him.
Nearby on the Penn State campus, hundreds gathered on a large lawn.
CROWD: Joe Paterno...
(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)
BRADY: Students also stood guard at a statue of Joe Paterno, just to make sure no one would try to vandalize it in the wake of the scandal that's happened under his watch.
But talk to people around town and many are now starting to focus more on the victims, the eight boys who have been identified so far who were allegedly molested.
Jonathan Light is president of the Teamsters Local Eight in State College. Among his members are janitors, one who of whom is counted as a witness in the grand jury indictment. Light says, two years back, that member called him for advice.
JONATHAN LIGHT: I encouraged him to talk to the police. The police wanted to investigate these claims against Jerry Sandusky.
BRADY: Light says he's been disappointed about so much attention being paid to Joe Paterno's career as football coach and less to the victims.
LIGHT: You know, having kids and understanding Joe is a legend and so on. But we need to be taking care of them. And my heart and I'm sure all of our members' hearts go out to the victims here and their families. And you don't hear much support for those folks. And that's where we should be focusing on right now, is making sure they're taken care of.
BRADY: But doing that, taking care of them, is difficult. These people were boys when they became victims and their names have been kept secret. Now, at least a few of them are adults. But so far, they've chosen to remain anonymous.
Jeff Brady, NPR News, State College, Pennsylvania.
RAZ: And, late today, the U.S. Department of Education announced it will investigate whether Penn State handled the sex abuse claims in accordance with federal law. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.