The winningest coach in major-college football history, Paterno's tenure ended in indignity, as the school Board of Trustees forced him out in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal that has rocked Happy Valley to its core.
The announcement came following an emergency meeting of the board Wednesday night. A spokesman said the vote to dismiss Paterno was unanimous.
"In our view, we thought a change was necessary," said John P. Surma, the vice chairman of the board.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley was named interim head coach.
Earlier in the day, Paterno, 84, issued a statement saying he intended to retire at the end of the year. Surma said the board thought allowing Paterno to continue would be "damaging to the university, so we made the change we did."
Paterno ends his career with a record of 409-136-3. He had 37 bowl appearances and 24 bowl wins.
In related news, the board also accepted the resignation of school president Graham Spanier Wednesday night.