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Hindsight haunts Joe Paterno in Penn State scandal: 'I wish I had done more'

The Penn State Board of Trustees fired head football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier Wednesday night. Paterno said on Wednesday the university's sex-abuse scandal was one of the 'great sorrows' of his life. The departure of Joe Paterno, a legendary coach, shows how deeply the story will hit Penn State.

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno returns to his residence in State College, Pa., Wednesday. Joe Paterno said on Wednesday he will retire at the end of the 2011 season amid a scandal over allegations a former assistant coach sexually abused boys and Penn State officials covered it up.

Tim Shaffer/REUTERS

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[UPDATE: The Associated Press reports that in a massive shakeup, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier were fired effective immediately Wednesday night by the board of trustees amid the growing furor over how the school handled child sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach.]

The child abuse sex scandal at Penn State University is continuing to reverberate.

Penn State’s famed football coach, Joe Paterno, has announced he will retire at the end of the season – his 46th. Mr. Paterno, considered to be one of the nation’s premier football icons, now says he wishes he had done more once he learned that one of his former coaches, Jerry Sandusky, had been observed assaulting a 10-year old boy in the team showers.

There are also reports that the president of Penn State, Graham Spanier, will either resign or be fired shortly.

Even with both men gone, sports experts say Penn State and its reputation have been badly damaged. Before the scandal, Penn State was known as a “clean” athletic program that had high academic standards and did not violate NCAA rules. The university could proudly point to itself as leading research institution.

“This is a stain that will take a long time to get over,” says David Carter, professor of sports business at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “It will have an impact on recruiting, and fundraising.”

The scandal started to unfold after a grand jury indicted Mr. Sandusky, a defensive coach who worked with Paterno for 23 years, on charges of assaulting eight boys over a 15 year period. In addition, the grand jury indicted Athletic Director Tim Curley and another senior official, Gary Schultz, on charges of perjury. Neither Paterno or Mr. Spanier were charged. All of the men are disputing the allegations.

Paterno, announcing his retirement on Wednesday, said, “This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

In football circles, Paterno is mentioned in the same breath with other legendary coaches – Alabama’s Bear Bryant, Eddie Robinson of Grambling, and Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne. He holds the record for the most wins in Division I football. But he has been criticized for not becoming more involved after a graduate student told him he had seen Sandusky and the 10-year-old boy in the locker room shower.

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