HARRISBURG, Pa. - Along with his job as head football coach at Penn State, Joe Paterno may also lose a shot at the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Pennsylvania's U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Bob Casey, a Democrat, said Thursday they are rescinding their support for Paterno's nomination for the nation's highest civilian honor, citing recent events at the school.
Republican Rep. Glenn Thompson also nominated Paterno earlier this year, but wouldn't say Thursday whether he would also withdraw Paterno's name.
The trio submitted Paterno's name in September, citing his contributions to athletics and higher education. Paterno was fired Wednesday amid a child sex abuse-scandal centered around former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
Sandusky, Paterno's onetime heir apparent, has been charged with molesting eight boys over 15 years. Athletic director Tim Curley and university vice president Gary Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report the 2002 assault to police, as required by state law.
All three maintain their innocence.
Paterno is not a target of the criminal investigation, having fulfilled his legal requirement by reporting what then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, who witnessed the alleged 2002 incident, told him to Curley and Schultz. But the state police commissioner called Paterno's failure to contact police or follow up on the incident a lapse in "moral responsibility."
There are also questions about how much Paterno actually knew of the alleged abuse. He has reportedly had contact with a high-profile criminal defense attorney.
A source told NBC that Paterno's advisers Thursday reached out to J. Sedgwick Sollers, who had previously represented President George H.W. Bush in the Iran-Contra affair. NBC said that the attorney has not met with the ex-coach and no retainer agreement has been formalized.
Sollers offered no comment on Thursday and Paterno's spokesman said via email that "no lawyer has been retained." Paterno's son, Scott, also wrote on Twitter Thursday evening: "To be clear, no lawyer has been retained. Not sure where that report originated."
Paterno has acknowledged that he should have done more but has not said why he didn't go to the police, nor has he said whether he was aware of any earlier alleged assaults. Aside from a few brief comments outside his house and two statements, Paterno has not spoken publicly since Sandusky was indicted.
McQueary, now the team's wide receivers coach, told the grand jury that he saw Sandusky sodomizing a boy of about 10 in the showers at the Penn State football building in March 2002.
McQueary later told Paterno, Curley and Schultz, although it is not clear how detailed his description was. Schultz, in turn, notified Spanier.
Curley and Schultz -- 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 the grand jury.
McQueary has not spoken publicly. His mother, Anne, said Thursday they have been advised not to comment.
Then 28, McQueary was "distraught" after witnessing the alleged 2002 assault, according to the indictment. Yet it appears he may have continued to participate in fundraising events with Sandusky -- including one held less than a month later.
Sandusky was a coach at a March 28, 2002, flag-football fundraiser for the Easter Seals of Central Pennsylvania, and McQueary and other Penn State staff members participated by either playing or signing autographs, according to a "Letter of special thanks" published in the Centre Daily Times.
The paper also reported that McQueary was scheduled to play in The Second Mile Celebrity Golf Classic in 2002 and 2003. The Second Mile is the charity Sandusky founded in 1997 to provide education and life skills to almost 100,000 at-risk kids each year.
And in 2004, the Centre Daily Times reported that McQueary played in the third annual Subway Easter Bowl Game, an Easter Seals fundraiser that was jointly coached by Sandusky.
Sandusky, a former Penn State player and assistant for 30 years, including 22 as defensive coordinator, had long been considered the likely successor to Paterno. But Paterno told Sandusky around May 1999 that he wouldn't get the top job.
According to the indictment, one of the alleged victims testified that Sandusky was "emotionally upset" after that meeting with Paterno, and Sandusky announced his retirement the next month.
Sandusky said he wanted to spend more time with The Second Mile, as well as taking advantage of a generous retirement package that included continued use of an office and access to the school's athletic facilities. Several of the alleged assaults took place on Penn State property.
Sandusky was just 55 when he retired with a sparkling resume. He stepped off college football's fast track when he would have been considered a top candidate for vacancies at any big-time program.