The Joe Paterno Era Is About to End at Penn State

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As the Penn State scandal continues to tear apart the school and its football program, reports are that head coach Joe Paterno's days are numbered. Publicly the Board of Trustees is hemming and hawing, announcing committees and reports and future investigations, but has so far taken no action against Paterno or school president Graham Spanier.

Behind the scenes, however, The New York Times reported Tuesday night that "discussions about how to manage his departure have begun" and that the chances of Paterno coaching beyond this season (or even this week) are slowly fading. ESPN's Joe Schad also said that there's talk of Spanier being replaced by former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge.

Even though his support among the university's leaders has apparently "eroded," Paterno is the most beloved figure in the history of the campus (if not the state), as demonstrated by a student rally last night that started at his home and ended with a late night march. So no matter how heinous his behavior might have been, or how clear it becomes that he must leave, there will be a strong desire among all involved to send Paterno out with some sort of dignity and respect intact. Saturday is Senior Day, the football team's last home game of the season, and it will almost certainly turn into a memorial/pep rally/goodbye party for JoePa. The man has been there for 50 years and he'll never quit voluntarily, but his legacy is already ruined and even if the trustees see the writing on the wall, no one wants to see him humiliated further.

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There's also the unspoken matter of the team's record, which is 8-1 and has the Nittany Lions in a position to make the first ever Big 10 Championship Game at the end of the year. However, this is one crime that has is too great for even football concerns to override. If we were to hazard a prediction, Paterno will likely be allowed to coach his final game on Saturday and then announce his resignation early next week. The 84-year-old coach will quietly go into retirement, but his statue will continue loom over the campus long after he's gone.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.