Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno fired, riots erupt on campus

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(AP, ABC7) — Police in riot gear have confronted hundreds of Penn State students who took to the streets after the ouster of football coach Joe Paterno. Crowds toppled a television news van and at least one photographer has been pelted with a rock.

Students rally on the campus of Penn State on the night the school fired Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno. (Photo: Associated Press)

The students flooded downtown State College on Wednesday night after Paterno and university President Graham Spanier were fired amid a growing furor linked to their handling of sex abuse allegations against a former assistant football coach.

MORE: A timeline of the rapidly unfolding scandal at Penn State

Officers used pepper spray to control the crowd. Some students chanted 'We want Joe! We want Joe!" Others kicked in the windows out of the toppled news van.

Paterno had announced earlier in the day he planned to retire after the season and expressed remorse for not having done more after he learned of the sex assault allegations.

Penn State ousts Paterno, university president Spanier

Before the chaos on campus erupted, school officials announced at a late-night press conference that both Paterno and Spanier had been fired.

In Paterno's case, the winningest coach in major college football history was fired, sending angry students into the streets where they shouted support for Paterno and tipped over a news van.

Both Paterno and Spanier were ousted by a board of trustees fed up with the damage being done to the university's reputation by a child sex-abuse scandal involving Paterno's one-time heir apparent.

"Right now, I'm not the football coach. And I've got to get used to that. After 61 years, I've got to get used to it," the 84-year-old Paterno said, speaking outside his house. "Let me think it through."

Paterno had earlier in the day announced his intention to retire at the end of the season, his 46th.

“I'm very saddened by the news and surprised and shocked,” said local Penn State alum Allen Neyman. “I did not believe that either the president or Paterno should be subject to that kind of action.”

Victim’s rights advocates say Paterno should've been fired, especially when he could've done more after a possible crime was committed.

“All he had to do was pick up the phone,” said Scott Berkowitz of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. “It would've taken him five minutes and he could've prevented perhaps dozens of rapes in subsequent years.”

Angry students swarm campus, State College

As word of the firings spread, thousands of students flocked to the administration building, shouting, "We want Joe back!" and "One more game!" They then headed downtown to Beaver Avenue, where about 100 police wearing helmets and carrying pepper spray were on standby. Witnesses said some rocks and bottles were thrown, a lamppost was toppled and a news van was knocked over, its windows kicked out.

State College police said early Thursday they were still gathering information on any possible arrests.

The decisions to oust Paterno and Spanier were unanimous, Surma said. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will serve as interim coach, and the university scheduled a news conference with him for Thursday morning. Penn State hosts Nebraska on Saturday in the final home game of the season, a day usually set aside to honor seniors on the team.

Provost Rodney Erickson will be the interim school president.

Paterno had come under increasing criticism — including from within the community known as Happy Valley — for not doing more to stop the alleged abuse by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who has been charged with molesting eight boys over 15 years. Some of the assaults took place at the Penn State football complex, including a 2002 incident witnessed by then-graduate assistant and current assistant coach Mike McQueary.

McQueary went to Paterno and reported seeing Sandusky assaulting a young boy in the Penn State showers. Paterno notified the athletic director, Tim Curley, and a vice president, Gary Schultz, who in turn notified Spanier. Curley and Schultz have been charged with failing to report the incident to authorities, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly earlier this week refused to rule out charges against Spanier.

After the jump: Paterno not a target of criminal investigation

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