Joe Paterno "probably" should have finished out the 2011 season instead of being fired, outgoing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett told The Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday.
"They probably shouldn't have fired him, they probably should've suspended him," Corbett told the Inquirer. "He probably should have been given the last three games, not on the sideline."
The longtime Penn State head coach was fired Nov. 9, 2011, via phone call in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Paterno had announced hours before that he planned to finish out the 2011 season and then retire.
Corbett's comments come on the heels of seven pages of publicly released NCAA emails, revealing that the organization attempted to "bluff" Penn State into accepting the sanctions. According to one official in the July 2012 emails, the NCAA was banking on the fact that the university "is so embarrassed they will do anything."
Penn State accepted unprecedented sanctions in July 2012.
NCAA president Mark Emmert announced the penalties on July 23, 2012 -- and they included a four-year postseason ban, severely reduced scholarships and a $60 million fine, among other penalties.
ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr. reported in June 2013 that Corbett was a central character in the firing of Paterno. Not only did Corbett serve as the state attorney general when police investigated Sandusky in the late 1990s, but he also one of the main voices in the firing of the longtime coach.
"Something not very good happened," Corbett told reporters on Nov. 9, 2012. "We have to ... take the bull by the horns and fix it. Quickly."
One of Penn State's current members on the board of trustees, Anthony Lubrano, wasn't buying Corbett's explanation to the Inquirer.
"It seems rather disingenuous to make that statement, given he made the charge to fire Paterno," Lubrano told ESPN.com. "Frankly, it shows what a poor politician he is. He waited until after the election to admit he made a mistake."
Corbett lost his re-election bid for governor Tuesday. He acknowledged to the Inquirer that his involvement with Penn State "might have been one factor" in losing the race to Tom Wolf.
"You know me, I have to have evidence on everything," Corbett told the Inquirer. "If it was clear [Paterno] understood and did not do anything, yeah. But I'm not sure it was clear to him. And, technically, he complied with the law."