STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State trustees fired football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier amid the growing furor over how the school handled sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach.

The massive shakeup Wednesday night came hours after Paterno announced that he planned to retire at the end of his 46th season.

BRADLEY REPLACES PATERNO

Tom Bradley will assume head coaching duties for the Penn State football team for the remainder of the 2011 season, replacing long-time head coach Joe Paterno.

In his 33rd season on the staff and 12th supervising one of the nation's top defenses, Bradley has played a large role in the success of the defense and recruiting efforts during his tenure. Bradley helped develop four All-Americans in the secondary.

In addition to the defensive backs, Bradley also has coached five other positions, including outside linebackers and defensive ends, coordinated the special teams and served as recruiting coordinator.

Bradley was a football letterman at Penn State in 1977-78, a graduate assistant in 1979 and became a full-time staff member in 1980.

But the outcry following the arrest of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on molestation charges proved too much for the board to ignore.

One key question has been why Paterno and other top school officials didn't go to police in 2002 after being told a graduate assistant saw Sandusky assaulting a boy in a school shower.

Paterno says he should have done more. Spanier has said he was not told the details of the attack.

Sandusky has denied the charges.

Rodney Erickson will serve as interim school president, and defensive coordinator Tom Bradley as interim coach.

Paterno released the following statement late Wednesday night:
 
"I am disappointed with the Board of Trustees' decision, but I have to accept it.
 
"A tragedy occurred, and we all have to have patience to let the legal process proceed. I appreciate the outpouring of support but want to emphasize that everyone should remain calm and please respect the university, its property and all that we value.
 
"I have been incredibly blessed to spend my entire career working with people I love. I am grateful beyond words to all of the coaches, players and staff who have been a part of this program. And to all of our fans and supporters, my family and I will be forever in your debt."

Paterno said in an earlier statement he was “absolutely devastated” by the case, in which Sandusky, his onetime heir apparent was charged with molesting eight boys in 15 years, with some of the alleged abuse taking place at the Penn State football complex.

“This is a tragedy,” Paterno said. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

John Surma, the vice chair of the board of trustees said, “these decisions were made after careful deliberations and in the best interests of the university as a whole.”

“The past several days have been absolutely terrible for the entire Penn State community. But the outrage that we feel is nothing compared to the physical and psychological suffering that allegedly took place,” he added.

Speaking at his house to students, Paterno said, “Right now, I’m not the football coach, and that’s something I have to get used to. I appreciate it. Let me think it through.”

Other students were upset. A large crowd descended on the administration building, shouting “We want Joe back!” then headed to Beaver Stadium.

NCAA president Mark Emmert release a statement Thursday, noting the NCAA is “actively monitoring developments and assessing appropriate steps moving forward.  The NCAA will defer in the immediate term to law enforcement officials since this situation involved alleged crimes.

“As the facts are established through the justice system, we will determine whether Association bylaws have been violated and act accordingly. To be clear, civil and criminal law will always take precedence over Association rules.”

The firings came three days before Penn State plays host to 19th-ranked Nebraska in its final home game of the season, a day usually set aside to honor seniors on the team.

The ouster of the man affectionately known as “JoePa” brings to an end one of the most storied coaching careers -- not just in college football but in all of sports. Paterno has 409 victories -- a record for major college football -- won two national titles and guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons. He reached 300 wins faster than any other coach.

ROAD TO 409
NCAA.com looks back with memorable images from JoePa’s 46 years -- and a DI-record 409 victories -- as Penn State’s head football coach.
Complete story

Penn State is 8-1 this year, with its only loss to powerhouse Alabama. The Nittany Lions are No. 12 in The Associated Press poll.

After 19th-ranked Nebraska, Penn State plays at Ohio State and at No. 16 Wisconsin, both Big Ten rivals. It has a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 3 in Indianapolis, with a Rose Bowl bid on the line.

After meeting Tuesday, Penn State’s board of trustees said it would appoint a committee to investigate the “circumstances” that resulted in the indictment of Sandusky, and of athletic director Tim Curley and a vice president Gary Schultz, who are accused in an alleged cover-up.

Paterno notified Curley and Schultz about the 2002 abuse charge and is not a target of the criminal investigation. Curley and Schultz have been charged with failing to report the incident to the authorities.

Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in June 1999, maintained his innocence through his lawyer. Curley has taken a leave of absence and Schultz has decided to step down. They also say they are innocent.

The committee will be appointed Friday at the board’s regular meeting, which Gov. Tom Corbett said he plans to attend, and will examine “what failures occurred and who is responsible and what measures are necessary to ensure” similar mistakes aren’t made in the future.

Sandusky founded The Second Mile charity in 1977, working with at-risk youths. It now raises and spends several million dollars each year for its programs. Paterno is listed on The Second Mile’s website as a member of its honorary board of directors, a group that includes business executives, golfing great Arnold Palmer and several NFL Hall of Famers and coaches, including retired Pittsburgh Steelers stars Jack Ham and Franco Harris.

On Wednesday morning, Paterno said he planned to retire at the end of the season, but the board had other ideas.

In a statement, Paterno said: “I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.”

He went on: “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.”

ALL-TIME DIVISION I LONGEVITY
Rank Games Coach School(s) and Years
1 548 Amos Alonzo Stagg Springfield (1890-91), Chicago (1892-1932), Pacific (33-46)
  548 Joe Paterno Penn State (1966-2011)
2 510 Bobby Bowden Samford (1959-62), West Virginia (70-75), Florida St. (76-2009)
3 457 Glenn "Pop" Warner Georgia (1895-96), Cornell (1897-98, 1904-06), Carlisle (1899-1903, 1907-14),
Pittsburgh (1915-23), Stanford (1924-32), Temple (1933-38)
4 425 Paul "Bear" Bryant Maryland (1945), Kentucky (1946-53), Texas A&M (1954-57), Alabama (1958-82)
5 420 Hayden Fry SMU (1962-72), North Texas (1973-78), Iowa (1979-98)
6 402 Jess Neely Rhodes (1924-27), Clemson (1931-39), Rice (1940-66)
7 388 Lou Holtz William & Mary (1969-71), NC State (1972-75), Arkansas (1977-83),
Minnesota (1984-85), Notre Dame (1986-96), South Carolina (1999-2004)
8 371 * Frank Beamer Murray St. (1981-86), Virginia Tech (1987-present)
9 361 LaVell Edwards BYU (1972-2000)
10 358 Jim Sweeney Montana St. (1963-67), Washington St. (1968-75), Fresno St. (1976-77, 1980-96)
* -- denotes active | Minimum 10 seasons in FBS; bowl games included | Statistics through Nov. 5, 2011

Related:
Paterno to retire after 46 seasons
Official: PSU victims come forward
• Penn State AD charged with perjury