In no uncertain terms, that was the reason Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett gave in a news conference Thursday night for his decision to push the Penn State board of trustees for the immediate ouster of iconic Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier.
It was Corbett who, as Pennsylvania attorney general, began the 2009 child sex abuse probe that led to charges against longtime Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who was arrested Saturday. Corbett declined to discuss specifics of the ongoing investigation, but he said he weighed in with the board of trustees before the firings.
"I won't go into the deliberations of the board meeting [Wednesday] night,'' Corbett said. "I sat and listened. I will say that I reminded the board that we must remember that 10-year-old child and the other children."
Sandusky is accused of 40 counts of sexual abuse involving eight victims over a 14-year period. In one instance occurring in 2002, Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary testified to a grand jury that he saw Sandusky allegedly sodomizing a 10-year-old boy in the shower at the football practice facility. McQueary went to Paterno with the allegation and the coach passed it up the chain of command without taking further action.
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As a result, the identity of the 10-year-old and one other victim are not known. Law enforcement officials have asked that any other victims or witnesses come forward to contact them, and current attorney general Linda Kelly specifically said they hope the victim in the 2002 incident will materialize.
Although McQueary did not try to aid the victim immediately, he essentially is the whistleblower and has been allowed to remain on staff. But Penn State Thursday night issued a statement saying McQueary will not attend Saturday's game between the No. 12 Nittany Lions (8-1) and No. 19 Nebraska (7-2) at Beaver Stadium because of threats against him.
Amid the uproar surrounding the firing of the 84-year-old Paterno and the decision not to allow him to complete his 46th season as coach, Corbett said, "We need to re-focus where it should be -- on the victims. We need to find them; we need to help them; they are our children . . . When it comes to the safety of children, there can be no margin for error, no hesitation to act.''
It was the failure to act that doomed Paterno, who reportedly has hired a criminal defense lawyer, and Spanier. Corbett said the university is "larger than any one figure.''
Speaking of Paterno and Spanier, Corbett said, "I was disappointed in their actions . . . Their actions caused me to not have confidence in their ability to continue to lead.''
Paterno was replaced on an interim basis by defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who spoke at a news conference Thursday morning. Bradley told Penn State's players, "The expectations are the expectations. We're not going to waver from that.''
The new coach expressed his grief for the victims and their families and said the team stands with them. Describing the situation he faces, Bradley said, "I just have to find a way to restore the confidence and to start a healing process with everybody.''
Citing the ongoing investigation, Bradley declined to comment on the probe.
Bradley became emotional while discussing Paterno. "Coach Paterno will go down in history as one of the greatest men,'' Bradley said. "He's had such a dynamic impact on so many people and players' lives. It's with great respect that I speak of him, and I'm proud to say I worked for him.''
The emotion of the firing ignited a crowd of about 4,000 students, who protested violently Wednesday night. Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne received assurances from Penn State officials that security will be increased to protect the safety of the visiting team and its fans.
Bradley and Corbett issued pleas to the students to behave peacefully. "The eyes of the nation are on you,'' Corbett said. "Your actions speak much louder than your words and carry with you for a very long period of time.''
With those words, Corbett essentially summed up the lesson the students should learn regarding the inaction by Paterno, Spanier and other Penn State officials when it came to protecting victims from Sandusky's alleged crimes. Asked if it's gratifying to see the investigation he began come to fruition, Corbett answered in a quiet voice: "Yes.''