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Penn State Scandal: Trustees' Support For Paterno Said To Be 'Eroding'

Scott Paterno, left, greeted his father — Penn State football coach Joe Paterno — as the coach arrived at his home, Tuesday evening in State College, Pa. Hundreds of students had gathered to show support for the coach.
Matt Rourke
Scott Paterno, left, greeted his father — Penn State football coach Joe Paterno — as the coach arrived at his home, Tuesday evening in State College, Pa. Hundreds of students had gathered to show support for the coach.

Catching up on some of the latest developments in the scandal at Penn State University — where former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with sexually abusing young boys, two university officials have been charged with lying to a grand jury and not alerting police, and there have been calls for legendary coach Joe Paterno to step down because of concern that he didn't do enough to alert authorities to what was allegedly happening:

-- Paterno's Fate: Support for the 84-year-old Paterno and school President Graham Spanier is "eroding" among the university's board of trustees, the Harrisburg-based Patriot-News reports, citing "sources close to the board."

That follows yesterday's story by The New York Times that "Paterno's tenure as the coach of the Penn State football team will soon be over, perhaps within days or weeks, in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal that has implicated university officials, according to two people briefed on conversations among the university's top officials."

Paterno, according to a grand jury report, told the school's athletic director in 2002 that a graduate assistant had reported seeing Sandusky engaging in a sex act with a young boy in the football team's shower. But the report went on to say that no one from the school, including Paterno, told police about the allegation and that Sandusky allegedly went on to abuse other boys. Paterno has not been charged with any crime.

-- Trustees To Launch Investigation: Late last night the trustees issued a statement that says, in part, that they are "outraged by the horrifying details contained in the Grand Jury Report" concerning Sandusky's alleged actions. (Sandusky says he's innocent, as do the two university officials swept up in the case.)

The statement also says that on Friday:

"The Board will appoint a Special Committee, members of which are currently being identified, to undertake a full and complete investigation of the circumstances that gave rise to the Grand Jury Report. This Special Committee will be commissioned to determine what failures occurred, who is responsible and what measures are necessary to insure that this never happens at our University again and that those responsible are held fully accountable."

-- Students Show Support For Paterno: Last night on campus, "an endless stream of more than 1,000 students" marched, according to the student-run Daily Collegian. Most expressed anger at Spanier and support for Paterno. " 'We are ... Penn State' and 'Hell no, Joe won't go' chants echoed through the night."

Police in riot gear, The Patriot-Newssays, eventually cleared the street.

At one point, "several hundred students converged" on Paterno's home, the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. And, it adds:

"An upbeat Paterno said he appreciated the support. In response to chants of 'We want Joe!,' Paterno, wearing his trademark Coke-bottle glasses and sporting a gray sweatshirt, shouted, 'And I want you guys!' "

" 'It's hard for me to tell you how much this means to me,' Paterno said amid the mob of students, reporters, and photographers. 'I've lived for this place. I've lived for people like you guys and girls. And I'm just so happy that you can feel so strongly about us and about your school.' "

There's a "guide and timeline" on the scandal posted here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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