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Penn State coach Joe Paterno mulling legal protection: report

Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno Credit: Getty Images

The shocking child-sex abuse scandal threatening Penn State's celebrated football program has snowballed since it broke last week, as the investigation widened and ousted head coach Joe Paterno began searching for an attorney, according to reports Thursday.

Paterno's advisers contacted a prominent criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C., although he had not officially retained one, a source close to the case told NBC News.

Matthew Galluzzo, a former Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor, told amNewYork it's not unusual for someone associated with such an explosive case to have his bases covered.

"I'm wondering if there isn't more going on that you wouldn't need to lawyer-up in advance," Galluzzo said.

Brooklyn-born Paterno hasn't been charged in connection to the case against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of molesting eight boys from 1994 to 2009.

Paterno, however, knew of at least one incident in 2002 in which Sandusky allegedly sodomized a boy around age 10 in a campus locker room shower. Paterno, 84, reported the incident to the university, but not to police. School trustees fired him late Wednesday amid calls that more should have been done to protect the alleged victims.

University President Graham Spanier also resigned Wednesday under pressure by school trustees.

Meanwhile, the scandal has spiraled out of control with rapid developments:

-- After thousands of students supporting Paterno rioted late Wednesday, flipping over a TV van and throwing rocks at cops, State College police on Thursday said they reviewed footage and identified numerous suspects that may be charged with attempted arson, rioting and other counts.

-- Mike McQueary, the current assistant coach who was an eyewitness to the 2002 incident, could still take the field during Penn State's game Saturday against Nebraska, which will be nationally televised. However, reports Thursday indicate he may be pulled from the game out of safety.

-- Paterno stayed out of the public eye Thursday, but was still feeling the backlash: Two U.S. senators from Pennsylvania rescinded their nomination for him to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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