PENNSYLVANIA– The Penn State University's trustees announced late Wednesday night that it had ousted school president Graham Spanier and legendary head football coach Joe Paterno amid a child sex abuse scandal under their watch involving a former assistant coach.
"These decisions made after careful deliberations and best interests of the university as a whole," said John Surma, vice chairman of the university board, during a news conference held following the board's meeting.
"The past several days have been absolutely terrible to the Penn State community," Surma said. "But the outrage is nothing compared to the psychological suffering that took place."
Paterno's former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of molesting at least eight boys between 1994 and 2009.
The status of a witness to one of the acts, Mike McQueary, remains unchanged. McQueary is currently receivers coach for the team but was a graduate assistant at the time.
Before the announcement, Paterno announced Wednesday he will retire at the end of the season, saying, "I wish I had done more" to help the victims of alleged sex abuse by his former assistant.
"I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case," Paterno said in a statement obtained by Fox News. "I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief."
"It is one of the great sorrows of my life," Paterno said. "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
The 84-year-old Paterno has been besieged by criticism since Sandusky was charged over the weekend with sexually abusing eight young boys between 1994 and 2009. Athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz have been charged with failing to notify authorities after an eyewitness reported a 2002 assault.
The U.S. Education Department said Wednesday night that it is investigating whether Penn State failed to report incidents of sexual abuse on campus, as required by federal law.
Though Paterno is not accused of any wrongdoing, he has been questioned over his apparent failure to follow up on a report of the 2002 incident, in which Sandusky allegedly sodomized a 10-year-old boy in the showers at the team's football complex. A witness, Mike McQueary, is currently receivers coach for the team but was a graduate assistant at the time.
McQueary told Paterno about the incident the next day, and the coach notified Curley and Schultz, who in turn notified Penn State president Graham Spanier. Curley and Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report the incident to authorities, as required by state law.
Both men, as well as Paterno, testified that they were told that Sandusky behaved inappropriately in that 2002 incident, but not to the extent of McQueary's graphic account to a state grand jury.
"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," Paterno said in the statement.
"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," he said.
Paterno, who earns about $1 million annually from the school, has been head coach for 46 years and part of the Penn State staff for more than six decades, and his old-school values pervade every corner of the program.