STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Just because Joe Paterno is gone doesn’t mean the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State is over.
The Nittany Lions started life without the 84-year-old Paterno on Thursday, introducing interim coach Tom Bradley while the board of trustees was just beginning its formal investigation.
“We’re obviously in a very unprecedented situation,” said Bradley, who was Paterno’s lead assistant for the last 11 seasons. “I have to find a way to restore the confidence.”
Many questions remained unanswered — from how much Paterno actually knew to whether there will be any repercussions for assistant coach Mike McQueary, who told Paterno but not police about seeing former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky in a shower with a young boy in 2002.
The campus was calm Thursday, after thousands of angry students paraded through the streets, some throwing rocks and bottles and tipping over a television news van.
The school said Thursday night that there had been “multiple threats” against McQueary, now the team’s receivers coach, and he would not attend Saturday’s home finale against Nebraska “in the best interest of all.”
Paterno was fired Wednesday night, effective immediately, just hours after the coach had announced that he would retire at the end of the season.
Gov. Tom Corbett arrived Thursday in advance of Friday’s previously scheduled trustees meeting and told reporters that he supported the decision to oust college football’s winningest coach and university President Graham Spanier because they didn’t do enough to alert law enforcement authorities.
“Their actions caused me to not have confidence in their ability to continue to lead,” said Corbett, who is on the board.
Sandusky, Paterno’s former assistant and onetime heir apparent, has been charged with molesting eight boys over 15 years. In the week since the state grand jury released its report, athletic director Tim Curley has taken administrative leave and vice president Gary Schultz has retired.
“Certainly every Pennsylvanian who has any knowledge of this case, who has read the grand jury report, feels a sense of regret and a sorrow to also see careers end,” Corbett said. “But we must keep in mind that when it comes to the safety of children, there can be no margin of error, no hesitation to act.”
It was a hurried process.
“We do not yet know all the facts and there are many details that have to be worked out,” board vice chair John Surma in announcing the firings of Paterno and Spanier, one of the nation’s longest-serving college presidents.
He said “change was necessary” and added: “To allow this process to continue was going to be damaging to the university.”
“We handled it the best way we could with the information we had and with the time that was available to us,” he added. “We were wanting to be decisive, but also wanting to be thorough.”
Paterno is not a target of the criminal investigation, having fulfilled his legal requirement by reporting what McQueary told him to Curley and Schultz. But the state police commissioner called Paterno’s failure to contact police or follow up on the incident a lapse in “moral responsibility.”
Paterno has acknowledged that he should have done more but has not said why he didn’t go to the police, nor has he said whether he was aware of any earlier alleged assaults. Aside from a few brief comments outside his house and two statements, Paterno has not spoken publicly since Sandusky was indicted.
McQueary, who is Penn State’s wide receivers coach, told the grand jury that in March 2002, he saw Sandusky sodomizing a boy of about 10 in the showers at the Penn State football building.
McQueary later told Paterno, Curley and Schultz, although it is not clear how detailed his description was. Schultz, in turn, notified Spanier.
Curley and Schultz — as well as Paterno — testified that they were told that Sandusky behaved inappropriately in that 2002 incident, but not to the extent of McQueary’s graphic account to the grand jury.
Curley and Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report the incident to authorities, as required by state law. Through his attorney, Sandusky has denied the charges.
McQueary has not spoken publicly. His mother, Anne, said Thursday they have been advised not to comment.
Then 28, McQueary was “distraught” after witnessing the alleged 2002 assault, according to the indictment. Yet it appears he may have continued to participate in fundraising events with Sandusky — including one held less than a month later.
Sandusky was a coach at a March 28, 2002, flag-football fundraiser for the Easter Seals of Central Pennsylvania, and McQueary and other Penn State staff members participated by either playing or signing autographs, according to a “Letter of special thanks” published in the Centre Daily Times.
The paper also reported that McQueary was scheduled to play in The Second Mile Celebrity Golf Classic in 2002 and 2003. The Second Mile is the charity Sandusky founded in 1997 to provide education and life skills to almost 100,000 at-risk kids each year.
And in 2004, the Centre Daily Times reported that McQueary played in the third annual Subway Easter Bowl Game, an Easter Seals fundraiser that was jointly coached by Sandusky.
Sandusky, a former Penn State player and assistant for 30 years, including 22 as defensive coordinator, had long been considered the likely successor to Paterno. But Paterno told Sandusky around May 1999 that he wouldn’t get the top job.
According to the indictment, one of the alleged victims testified that Sandusky was “emotionally upset” after that meeting with Paterno, and Sandusky announced his retirement the next month.
Sandusky said he wanted to spend more time with The Second Mile, as well as taking advantage of a generous retirement package that included continued use of an office and access to the school’s athletic facilities. Several of the alleged assaults took place on Penn State property.
Sandusky was just 55 when he retired with a sparkling resume. He stepped off college football’s fast track when he would have been considered a top candidate for vacancies at any big-time program.
Bradley spent most of his career at Penn State as a defensive assistant and succeeded Sandusky as defensive coordinator.
Penn State has said Bradley will be interim coach for the rest of the season. It has not said if he will be a candidate for the permanent job, nor has it given any timetable for hiring a new coach.
It’s not even clear who will do the hiring, with Curley on leave and provost Rodney Erickson serving as interim school president.