Penn State's McQueary put on administrative leave
Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary is shown on the sidelines in this Oct. 24, 2009 file photo. / AP
Updated 10:56 p.m. ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - A former assistant football coach who testified in a grand jury investigation into a shocking child sex abuse case that has tarnished an important U.S. college and led to the firing of its beloved head coach has been placed on administrative leave, the school said Friday.
Penn State announced the move a day after it said assistant football coach Mike McQueary had received multiple threats and it would be "in the best interest of all" if he did not attend the season's final home game on Saturday. The college's athletic department did not provide details on precisely who threatened the coach.
McQueary testified in a grand jury investigation that eventually led to child sex-abuse charges being filed against another former coach, Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of having repeated, illicit contact with boys as young as 10 over a span of 15 years, sometimes in Penn State's facilities.
The grand jury report said that administrators and the university's head coach, the legendary Joe Paterno, did not contact law enforcement authorities after McQueary told them he saw Sandusky sodomizing a boy of about 10 years old in the locker room showers at the team's practice center in 2002.
Both Paterno and university President Graham Spanier were fired earlier this week. Sandusky was arrested and charged last Saturday. His lawyer maintains his client is innocent.
"It became clear that coach McQueary could not function in this role under these circumstances," Penn State's new president, Rod Erickson, said Friday.
Erickson said that McQueary's leave is indefinite and paid subject to further determination. Asked if McQueary would be fired, Erickson said "there are complexities to that issue that I am not prepared to go into at this point." Asked about the status of athletic director Tim Curley, Erickson said, "That's an ongoing topic of discussion. We'll return to that next week."
Erickson spoke at a press conference Friday, which he began by announcing the appointment of an "ethics officer" and vowing transparency and open dialogue as the in sex abuse investigation moves forward.
Erickson said that there will be extra security present at Penn State's Saturday home game against Nebraska .
"There will be significant attention to the conduct of the crowd attending tomorrow's game," he said, imploring students to set an example of good conduct before, during and after the game and asking all attendees to be mindful of what's going around them.
"Much of the world is looking at us tomorrow," he said.
Erickson said that the game would be an opportunity to highlight the tragedy of child sexual abuse.
The interim president mentioned that the university would fully cooperate with ongoing investigations and said that those who were abused in this case should not be afraid to come forward.
"We will be respectful and sensitive to the victims and their families. We will seek ways to foster healing," he said.
As for the Penn State community, Erickson expressed gratitude to the donors and alumni who have supported the school. He also encouraged students to open up and talk about these issues.
"The students are the heart and soul of this university," he said in his earlier remarks.
Thousands of students held a candlelight vigil Friday night in front of the administration building to show support for the boys who were allegedly abused, and several groups are raising money for victims of sexual abuse, collecting more than $200,000 so far.
Penn State has one of the country's largest and most loyal fan bases, drawing more than 100,000 people to its home games in State College, a community of less than 40,000 with the nickname Happy Valley. Paterno spent 46 years leading the Penn State team, and won more games than any other major college football coach in America. The team's success has brought in millions of dollars in television broadcast rights, merchandising and more.
Paterno has not been implicated in the criminal investigation, but the school's athletic director and vice president have both been charged with perjury and failing to report an incident of abuse in 2002 to authorities.
Still, campus leaders continue to face mounting public criticism for failing to call police and prevent further suspected cases. So, too, has McQueary, who has not spoken publicly. His mother, Anne, said Thursday they have been advised not to comment.
Elsewhere, in forums online, and in comments on other websites, there have been calls for McQueary to be fired, but the assistant coach could be protected as a whistleblower.
Gerald J. Williams, a partner at a Philadelphia law firm, said Pennsylvania law is broad in protecting a person who reports wrongdoing, as long as that person is part of a governmental or quasi-governmental institution, such as Penn State.
Meanwhile Friday, Joe Paterno's son, Scott, issued a statement on behalf of his father that he has hired the law firm of King and Spalding. He said that the elder Paterno has fully cooperated with the grand jury, and that he wants to publicly answer questions but will have to defer to the legal process.
"My father's desire is for the truth to be uncovered and he will work with his lawyers to that end. Going forward, Mr. Sollers has directed my father, our family and everyone associated with us to make no further public statements and to respond to no media inquiries. We will honor this request."
Scott Paterno also said in the statement that the former coach is distraught about what happened to the children and the families.
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