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American Football: Grand old man resigns in child abuse scandal


Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State American football team and one of the most recognised names in US sport, said yesterday that he will retire at the end of the 2011 season after a child abuse scandal engulfed the college.

Mr Paterno, 84, who has been with the team for half a century, said he was "absolutely devastated" by the case, in which his one-time heir apparent, Jerry Sandusky, has been charged with molesting eight boys over 15 years, including at the Penn State football complex.

He said he hoped the team could finish its season with "dignity and determination", although the Penn State board of trustees could still force him to leave immediately. Mr Paterno said the trustees, who had been considering his fate, should "not spend a single minute discussing my status" and has more important matters to address.

Mr Paterno has been engulfed by outrage that he did not do more to stop Mr Sandusky after an assistant came to Mr Paterno in 2002 and told him that he saw the former assistant coach molesting a 10-year-old boy in the showers. "This is a tragedy," Mr Paterno said in a statement. "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief." The decision to retire by the man affectionately known as "Joe Pa" brings to an end one of the most storied coaching careers, not just in college football, but in all sports.

Mr Paterno won 409 games, a record for major college football, and is in the middle of his 46th year as coach. His figure patrolling the sideline – thick-rimmed glasses and coat, tie and khaki pants – was as unmistakable at Penn State as its classic blue and white uniforms.

Mr Paterno has been questioned about how he acted when a graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, reported the incident to him in 2002.

Mr Paterno notified Penn State athletic director, Tim Curley, and vice-president, Gary Schultz. Mr Curley and Mr Schultz have since been charged with failing to report the incident to the authorities. Mr Paterno hasn't been accused of legal wrongdoing. But he has been assailed, in what critics called a lapse of "moral responsibility", for not doing more to stop his assistant. Mr Sandusky – whose lawyer says he is innocent – retired from Penn State in June 1999. AP