Penn State, rocked by a growing child sex-abuse scandal that Wednesday night claimed legendary football coach Joe Paterno, attempted to move forward Thursday, introducing its interim head coach but leaving key questions unanswered over who knew about the alleged abuse and why it was allowed to continue.
Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley said during a Thursday press conference that he is stepping in for Paterno with "very mixed emotions."
The defensive coordinator is Penn State's first coach other than Paterno in almost half a century. He was appointed interim head coach by Penn State's board after the trustees fired Paterno on Wednesday night in the wake of a child sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years.
"We're obviously in a very unprecedented situation," Bradley told reporters. "I have to find a way to restore the confidence ... it's with very mixed emotions and heavy hearts that we go through this."
"I grieve for the victims, I grieve for the families," he said.
Bradley took over the reins as interim coach after the school's board of trustees ousted Paterno, the longest-tenured coach in major-college football, and university president Graham Spanier late Wednesday over the school's handling of the allegations against Sandusky.
The board's decision sparked riots throughout the Penn State campus, with some protesters flipping over a media van and destroying property.
Riot police were deployed in State College, Pa., to subdue a crowd of about 2,000 people who had gathered at Old Main and moved to an area called Beaver Canyon, a street ringed by student apartments that were used in past riots to pelt police, Fox affiliate WTXF-TV reported. Several people were reportedly arrested.
A mural honoring Paterno, called "Inspiration," was partially painted over to cover an image of Sandusky's face. In Sandusky's place, the artist put a blue ribbon, which is a symbol for the campaign to end child abuse.
Michael Pilato, the artist who created the mural, told KDKA-TV that he received an email from one of the victim's mothers, asking him to paint over Sandusky.
"It’s just a really sad day for me," Pilato told the station.
Sandusky is accused of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period through a charity he founded for at-risk youth.
Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, vice president for finance and business, have also been charged with perjury in connection with their testimony before a grand jury considering the evidence against Sandusky. They failed to notify authorities about the abuse, prosecutors said. Curley and Schultz have maintained their innocence.
John Surma, the board's vice president, said he called Paterno at home Wednesday to deliver the news about his firing. He said the board's vote was unanimous.
About two hours after the firing, Paterno came out of his house to greet about 200 students who had gathered there, WTXF-TV reported.
"Pray for the [sexual abuse] victims," he told the crowd. "We love you."
He also issued a statement, obtained by Fox News, saying that he was disappointed with the board's decision but would have to accept it.
Bradley will coach the 12th-ranked Nittany Lions through the end of the season, starting with Saturday's home finale against No. 19 Nebraska.
"This team has put in a lot of hard work," Bradley said. "Penn State will go about it in the proper manner and restore ... the principles of Penn State University."
Bradley's Penn State roots go back more than three decades. He went from special teams captain to graduate assistant in 1979, and has been in Happy Valley ever since. He took over as defensive coordinator after Sandusky resigned in 1999, and the Nittany Lions are third in the country in scoring defense (12.4 points per game) this year. They rank eighth in total defense (282.3 yards per game).
Nicknamed "Scrap" for his scrappy style on special teams while a player, the energetic Bradley is known for his animated machinations on the field, wildly flailing his arms to move his defenders or call in plays. He was Paterno's lead assistant on the field for the past 11 seasons, and considered the leading in-house candidate to replace his Hall of Fame boss.
"I am who I am, I'm not going to change," Bradley said. "I'm not going to pretend I'm somebody else."
Bradley grew up in Johnstown, a western Pennsylvania mining town, as the second oldest of seven kids (three boys and four girls). His father, Jim, played basketball for Pittsburgh but, like many Irish Catholics, the Bradleys' football allegiances were to Notre Dame. The Penn State connection started with his older brother, Jim, who played defensive back for Paterno from 1973-74.
Tom played defensive back from `77-78, and his younger brother, Matt, was a linebacker from `79-81.
Bradley found out he was the new coach Wednesday night while watching game film. He called Paterno about 11 p.m.
Asked to describe the conversation, Bradley replied, "I think that's personal in nature."
Bradley declined repeatedly to answer reporters' questions about what he and others may have known about Sandusky and the abuse allegations.
"Due to the ongoing investigation, I’m not going to say anything about that matter," he said.
Bradley, who had not slept overnight, defended Paterno.
"Coach Paterno will go down in history as one of the greatest men, who maybe most of you know as a great football coach," he said. "I've had the privilege and the honor to work for him, spend time with him. He's had such dynamic impact on so many, so many. I'll say it again, so many people and players' lives."
"It's with great respect that I speak of him and I'm proud to say that I worked for him."
Newscore and the Associated Press contributed to this report.