Penn State Students Riot Over Joe Paterno Firing

The firing of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno led to a full-blown riot by outraged students.

The firing of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno led to a full-blown riot by outraged students.

CSM (“Penn State riot: Students react to Joe Paterno firing“):

More than 1,000 protesting Penn State University students poured into the streets around campus on Wednesday after head football coach Joe Paterno was fired in fallout from a child-abuse scandal at the school.

Chanting “Hell no, Joe won’t go” and “We want Joe back,” they also cursed former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who was charged on Saturday with sexually abusing eight young boys over a period of nearly 15 years.


The students filled two city blocks near the campus and turned over a media van before earth-moving equipment was brought in to right the vehicle. Members of the crowd also damaged at least two light poles.

Scores of police and state troopers, some in riot gear, tried to clear the streets, and some officers used a chemical spray to disperse the demonstrators. Crowds thinned somewhat after a light rain began to fall.

At least three people were escorted away by police but it was not immediately clear if they were arrested. A police spokeswoman had said she was not aware of any arrests.

“I haven’t seen this kind of student outrage about anything since I’ve been here,” said Caroline Celoquin, a senior from Westchester, Pennsylvania.

Asked how she felt about Paterno being fired, Nicole Atlak, a freshman from Toms River, New Jersey, said: “Absolutely disgusted. From a student’s perspective, it’s like where do we go from here? We no longer have a president. We no longer have a 45-year legacy.”

A student with a bullhorn addressed the crowd, saying: “I think it’s only fair to let him (Paterno) ride out the season because this is the house that Joe built.”

ABC News (“Joe Paterno Fired: Penn State Students Riot in Protest“):

Thousands of enraged Penn State students tore through the streets of State College, Pa., overnight to protest the firing of Joe Paterno after the longtime head football coach was removed from his position effective immediately.

Amid chants of “We want JoePa,” “One more game” and “F*** the media!,” rioting students flipped over a television van, knocked a lamppost onto a car, threw toilet tissue and rocks at police and set off fireworks.

Police met the rioting crowds with tear gas as it became clear that the army of officers, who were out in riot gear, were far outnumbered by students. Every local police department in the county contributed officers to the effort to control the crowd, along with state police and the county sheriff’s department.

Several students directed their rage at the media by overturning over a satellite van belonging to a local CBS affiliate, breaking its windows and threatening to burn it amid chants.

At least two students were arrested and at least one injury was reported after a girl who was hit in the head with a rock was taken to the hospital.

By 3 a.m. the crowd had mostly dissipated as the cold, rainy conditions in State College likely encouraged many students to return home. A small group of students gathered at the Paterno statue at Beaver Stadium to sing the school’s alma mater after the mob disbanded.


Paterno, 84, announced Wednesday that he was “absolutely devastated” by the scandal and would retire at the end of the season, will not get to leave on his own terms. Penn State’s head coach of nearly five decades will not coach another game, according to the trustees.

“Right now, I’m not the football coach, and that’s something I have to get used to,” Paterno said, according to The Associated Press. As he spoke, people gathered at Paterno’s house and were seen crying. Paterno eventually came out to suggest the students go home and study, and thanked them for their continued support. “I am disappointed with the board of trustees’ decision, but I have to accept it,” he said in a statement. “A tragedy occurred, and we all have to have patience to let the legal process proceed. I appreciate the outpouring of support but want to emphasize that everyone should remain calm and please respect the university, its property and all that we value.”

Paterno went from saintly icon to being fired under incredibly ugly circumstances in only five days, so one can understand that it’s taking a while for his fans to adjust. But, even accounting for the immaturity of college students and the strong probability that alcohol was involved, this reaction is just shameful, further tarring the image of the university.

The Daily Beast has collected a lot of photos and reactions.

Video of the incident is here:

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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Pretty much underlines why he needed to be fired before Saturday. Can you imagine the horrifying scene of these ding dongs treating Paterno like a hero?

  2. JKB says:

    Penn State students say, “What’s the rape of children compared to football.”

  3. Damian P. says:

    Those crazy Yanks. You’d never see Canadians rioting over something related to sports.

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Damian P.:

    Have you not seen this clip from an early 90’s documentary?

  5. JKB says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Worse, it was bring your little brother to the game day.

  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    Asked how she felt about Paterno being fired, Nicole Atlak, a freshman from Toms River, New Jersey, said: “Absolutely disgusted. From a student’s perspective, it’s like where do we go from here? We no longer have a president. We no longer have a 45-year legacy.”

    You’re disgusted that your legacy is gone? I’m disgusted that the children. How about you riot over that?

  7. delia says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Yup, definitely think the reason why they had to fire him now. Imagine him being hoisted up and thousands of (pick your own adjective, I prefer “stupid”) students cheering him in adoration. What kind of slap in the face would that be to the victims and their families?

  8. MstrB says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’m sure the trustees didn’t want the image of Paterno being carried off the field on the player’s shoulders to cheers of thousands splashed across the TV on Saturday. They sure as hell weren’t going to let him go to Wisconsin or Ohio State, that would of just been ugly.

  9. Rob in CT says:


  10. Gustopher says:

    I know that is probably just because I am a bad person, but I hope those rioting students (male and female) get raped.

    They’re too old for it to be child rape, but if they’re supporting child rape, they should put a little skin in the game. If they can still support Paterno after they themselves have been forcibly sodomized, then more power to them.

  11. Dexter says:

    1- How much did Coach know? How much should he have known?
    2- The way Coach was fired was pretty shabby: middle of the night by telephone.
    In many organizations, there is a tendency to keep the top insulated and in the dark about any problems. Maybe this is what happened here.

  12. Diane Spagnolo says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    Joe Paterno, having not done the right thing in reporting Sandusky to the proper authorities is almost as guilty as Sandusky. Paterno knew that nothing had ever been done about this disgusting situation for years and years. So, he allowed children to be abused and raped for almighty football. If that young assistant came to you and told you what he saw, even if the authorities were not contacted as they should have been, would you have followed up on the situation? Of course you would!
    You’re correct Nicole, you no longer have a 45 year legacy, you have a brand new one!

  13. Diane Spagnolo says:

    Dexter, Apparently you have read none of the articles since this came to light! Maybe go back and read them and then you will know he knew!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!