Thousands of students and others poured through the streets Wednesday night, screaming, chanting and even overturning a television satellite truck in response to the news that Paterno had been dismissed for his role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. At least two people went to the hospital in the riot. Police have vowed more arrests.
Bradley said Penn State provost Rod Erickson called him around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday asking him if he wanted the job. Bradley said he accepted and phoned Paterno about an hour later, though he declined to reveal details of that conversation.
Bradley said he had no reservations about accepting the job and pledged there would be no slackening of expectations for the team, which plays Nebraska on Saturday.
He also said assistant Mike McQueary would be coaching the game but it had not been determined whether he will be on the sidelines.
McQueary, who coaches the wide receivers, has come under increasing fire for his role in the scandal. As a graduate assistant nine years ago, he discovered Sandusky having sex with a 10-year-old boy in a team shower and told Paterno, but not police.
Bradley would not discuss his own testimony for the investigating grand jury, which charged Sandusky with sexually abusing minors.
Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Schultz were also caught up in the scandal, charged with perjury and with failing to report alleged child abuse.
Paterno has not been charged with wrongdoing and met his legal obligation by reporting the allegation against Sandusky to Curley a decade ago. But many viewed him — and school president Graham Spanier — as morally culpable for failing to take further action.
Spanier, who outraged many by expressing 'unconditional support" for Curley and Schultz, stepped down Wednesday, ending a 15-year stint at the helm at one of the nation's largest universities.
For Matt Molinari, a junior from Nesquehoning, the eruption of anger after Paterno's dismissal was more a expression of confusion than anger.
Yes, he said, a few people tore down light posts and smashed car windows, but most went downtown just to be there, to try and understand the gut-punch the board delivered with little fanfare to their beloved JoePa.
For many, Paterno's culpability in the Sandusky affair — the ex-assistant coach is charged with serial molestation of young boys — remains a gray issue in a campus desperately seeking sharp moral distinctions.
"A lot of people didn't go out to riot – they're trying to figure out how they feel about the situation," Molinari said. "I think there's a lot of stuff we don't know."
All the same: "I really wish I could have seen him in his last game," he said.
For people who never attended Penn State — or any school with a similar culture of big football and big personalities — the depth of anguish on campus and among alumni may be hard to understand.
But there is an almost religious quality to the shared experience of Happy Valley, where people at the end of youth and on the verge of adulthood have converged on Beaver Stadium every autumn to savor the unchanging tableaux of Paterno, ever more grandfatherly with the turning of the years, patrolling the sidelines.
Tom Flad of Bethlehem Township, a 1974 graduate, so cherished his Penn State days that he and his wife last year donated $4 million to Penn State. Half went to the Italian language and literature program, $1 million went to a director's fund in the Paterno Liberal Arts Undergraduate Fellows Program, and $1 million was divided between the university's football and rugby teams.
"Penn State, where I acquired those tools necessary for adulthood, where my system of values, attitudes, and beliefs took shape, and where I spent 7 years of my youth in study, was a natural for where I wanted to leave my legacy, show my support, and pay appreciation to that institution that was so responsible for all I had become in life," he wrote in an e-mail.
But to Flad, raised by a second-generation Italian mother and a Sicilian grandmother, there was something more — Joe Paterno. Flad began college in Paterno's second year as head coach and developed an immediate and abiding respect for the man who said academics and character could coexist with athletic prowess.
And now? Flad said Paterno deserved a more dignified exit than the late phone call he received. He still considers the coach a man of honor and integrity. But the whole of the affair has left him stunned.
"The words shocked, disgusted, angered, hurt, appalled, disillusioned, repulsed, etc., etc., just don't totally capture the gamut of emotions these past few days have elicited," he wrote. "It made me cry. It made me tremble with sickened disgust and anger."