Penn State football coach Joe Paterno released a statement saying he will retire at the end of the season, ending his 46 year tenure with the Nittany Lions, but to fully understand what he lost in the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal, you need to understand the kingdom he built. But first, the full text of Paterno's resignation notice:
I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.
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.
That's why 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.
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.
"Effective at the end of the season" likely means after Penn State's bowl game, but there's no guarantee PSU administrators will sign off on his desired timetable. The New York Times notes Paterno's "immediate future is still in the hands of the board, which is scheduled to meet Friday," with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett expected to be in attendance, as the school, state, and athletic department face mounting criticism about not doing enough after first hearing about alleged improper contact between former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and a young boy. With the stakes this high it might not matter, but The Times notes that Paterno has had "a contentious relationship with some members of the Board of Trustees for years," including university president Graham Spanier, who in 2004 went to Paterno's house twice with other board members to persuade him to resign after back-to-back losing seasons. Paterno refused and led Penn State to an Orange Bowl victory the next season. There's also the possibility Spanier might not make it to the Friday meeting. A source tells ESPN.com's Joe Schad that the school's board of trustees "has weighed the possibility of having former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge replace the embattled Spanier."
Until university administrators tell Paterno his tenure has to end early, his timetable for stepping down is the only one in play. But it's too early to begin speculating on how the Sandusky allegations and Paterno's response will damage his legacy. Former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes led the Buckeyes to eight Rose Bowl berths during his 27 seasons in Columbus, but the fact he was fired for punching a Clemson player during the 1978 Gator Bowl was in the first paragraph of his New York Times obituary. Compared to the possible consequences of Paterno's silence, the Hayes punch seems genteel by comparison. The fact he won 409 games, the most of any major college football coach, won't help him a lick. But it's helpful to understand what made Penn State and Joe Paterno unique to begin with.