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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (CBS) – Penn State’s board of trustees held an emergency meeting last night, deciding to fire legendary football coach Joe Paterno and University President Graham Spanier.

Board vice president John Surma says they told Paterno the news over the phone.

“We were unable to find a way to get to do that in person without causing, we thought, greater distraction and that was the conclusion we made,” he announced to a large crowd of reporters.

paterno joerobbins Students Riot After Paterno Gets Fired

Joe Paterno (credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

“In consideration of all the facts and the difficulties that we are encountering during this time, it was the trustees’ view that it was in the best interest, long-term interest, of our university to make that change.”

But many students didn’t get that message, immediately lashing out, first coming to Old Main where they chanted at school officials, then a mob marched down Beaver Canyon. Once the lights of the TV cameras went on, the mob turned ugly. A television station’s truck was flipped, as police in riot gear began spraying pepper spray to try to control the crowd.

“There’s a van up the street that got flipped,” one eyewitness said. “A few cars that got flipped around town, definitely a lot of people got maced, there was a lot of mace going around.”

In a statement, the 84-year-old coach asked students to show respect for university property. “I am disappointed with the Board of Trustees’ decision, but I have to accept it. A tragedy occurred, and we all have to have patience to let the legal process proceed.”

Graham Spanier also released a statement saying he “always acted honorably and in the best interests of the university, the buck stops here. In this situation, I believe it is in the best interests of the university to give my successor a clear path for resolving the issues before us.”

All this is of course, in the wake of the allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, and of a potential cover-up at the university.

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will coach the Nittany Lions this weekend against Nebraska.

Reported by Jim Melwert, KYW Newsradio 1060

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