Mike McQueary on administrative leave

Updated: November 12, 2011, 11:19 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary, a key witness in the child sex abuse scandal that has engulfed the school, has been placed on administrative leave.

Mike McQueary's father, John McQueary, told ESPN.com's Wayne Drehs Friday night that his son is not in State College, but added that he did not believe he had been placed in protective custody.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg had reported McQueary told players Friday during a brief conference call that he was in protective custody outside of State College.

"Actually I should tell you yes, he's surrounded by 80 guards. I should tell you they're all armed with bazookas," John McQueary told ESPN.com. "But to the best of my knowledge that's not true."

McQueary's father added that he knew he his son was safe.

School president Rod Erickson notified McQueary of the decision to place him on administrative leave Friday, a day after the school said the receivers coach would not be present Saturday when the Nittany Lions play Nebraska because he has received threats.

Asked if McQueary was placed on leave for his conduct or to ensure his safety, Erickson said it was "a complicated situation."

"It became clear that coach McQueary could not function in this role under these circumstances," Erickson said. He said he reached the decision to place McQueary on indefinite leave with acting athletic director Mark Sherburne, and that McQueary was informed of the decision on Friday.

Asked if McQueary would be fired, Erickson said "There are complexities to that issue that I am not prepared to go into at this point."

McQueary testified in a grand jury investigation that eventually led to child sex-abuse charges being filed against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The ensuing scandal brought down longtime coach Joe Paterno, who was fired by university trustees amid growing criticism that he should have done more to stop the alleged abuse.

The Patriot-News reported that according to two team sources, McQueary had a brief, emotional conversation with the team's receivers via speaker phone on Friday afternoon at the Penn State football complex.

"I wanted to let you guys know I'm not your coach anymore. I'm done," McQueary said, according to the report.

The players asked McQueary where he was and if they could see him. He replied "No, I'm actually in protective custody. I'm not in State College," The Patriot-News reported.

In 2002, McQueary, then a graduate assistant, went to Paterno and reported seeing Sandusky assaulting a young boy in the Penn State football team's showers. Paterno notified the athletic director, Tim Curley, and a vice president, Gary Schultz, who in turn notified president Graham Spanier.

A source told ESPN that Paterno recalls McQueary "vaguely" referencing "fondling" or "touching" or "horsing around" by Sandusky and a youth. But Paterno never had the understanding that McQueary had witnessed a "sodomy" or "rape."

Curley and Schultz have been charged with failing to report the incident to authorities. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly has not ruled out charges against Spanier, who was ousted from his post at the same time Paterno was dismissed.

Through their lawyers, Sandusky, Curley and Schultz have all said they are innocent.

Friday night, thousands of supporters, including students, alumni and teachers, gathered for a student-organized candlelight vigil in front of Penn State's "Old Main" administration building.

They observed a moment of silence after the bell tolled at 10 p.m. and listened to several speakers, including former college All-American linebacker LaVar Arrington, an acappella group singing "Imagine" and the school marching band.

It was largely solemn until it ended with an ear-shattering series of "We are ... Penn State!" -- helping a group of people who felt like they had lost a hero -- Paterno -- to have something to rally around.

Penn State senior and vigil organizer Jessica Sever says she wants the vigil to put the focus back on the boys, especially after police had to break up a violent student rally touched off by Wednesday's firing of Paterno.

One speaker, 2007 graduate Dustin Yenser, encouraged victims to know that they had the support of the campus despite having been failed by people who he believed had an obligation to protect them. And Arrington urged attendees to use the scandal as a challenge.

"Let it be known that we waged war to make a difference," Arrington said. "Leave here tonight with a resolve and an understanding that you possess the power to change things."

Paterno is not a target of the criminal investigation, but the state police commissioner called his failure to contact police himself a lapse in "moral responsibility."

On Friday, Paterno's son Scott said he had retained prominent Washington D.C. attorney J. Sedwick Sollers, of the law firm of King & Spalding. He also announced that that on Sollers' advice, the Paterno family will make no further public statements on the scandal.

"Like everyone who has watched this story unfold, my father is experiencing a range of powerful emotions. He is absolutely distraught over what happened to the children and their families. He also wants very much to speak publicly and answer questions," Scott Paterno said.

"At this stage, however, he has no choice but to be patient and defer to the legal process. He cooperated fully with the grand jury and he will continue to cooperate with the investigation as we move forward."

McQueary testified that after witnessing the alleged assault, he left the building, called his father and the next day told Paterno what he saw.

McQueary, a former Penn State quarterback, has faced immense criticism this week for not calling police, interrupting the act or, in the nine years since he was an eyewitness, demanding answers about why Sandusky was never charged.

But Stephen Kohn, the executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center in Washington, D.C., told Drehs that reporting the incident to Paterno alone could be enough to protect McQueary from being dismissed under the state's whistle-blower law.

Sandusky has also been targeted. State College police confirmed to ESPN that a window at Sandusky's home in State College was vandalized on Thursday night.

According to police, at about 10:20 p.m. E.T. Thursday, pieces of a cinder block were thrown through a window of an unoccupied bedroom of the home.

A broken ground-floor window in the front of the house in State College was covered Friday with what looked what a white tarp. No one answered the door Friday.

With emotions over the allegations and Paterno's dismissal still running high, Erickson said the university would have an increased security presence at Saturday's game.

"Significant attention to the conduct of the crowd" will be paid, before, during and after the game, he said at a news conference Friday.

Information from The Asssociated Press was used in this report.

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