By Mark Shade
BELLEFONTE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Penn State's Board of Trustees on Monday defended its firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno and the university's president, saying they showed a "failure of leadership" in not doing more after reports of child sexual abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Paterno and Graham Spanier were fired in November after Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period.
Many alumni were upset over the firing of Paterno, who was head coach for 46 years. With 409 victories at Penn State, he won more games in big-time college football than any other coach in the sport's history. Paterno died in January of lung cancer.
A report released by the university's board on Monday said a graduate student told Paterno in 2002 about seeing Sandusky "fondling or doing something of a sexual nature" to a boy in showers on campus.
Paterno told his supervisor, Athletic Director Tim Curley, but did not call police, the report said. The board said it learned the details of Paterno's actions in a grand jury report.
"We determined that his decision to do his minimum legal duty and not to do more to follow up constituted a failure of leadership by Coach Paterno," the report said.
Sandusky, who faces 52 counts of sexual abuse, has maintained his innocence.
A hearing in his case was being held on Monday in Centre County Court, Pennsylvania. Sandusky is under house arrest and was not expected to appear in court until his trial in mid-May.
The Penn State board said Spanier "failed to meet his leadership responsibilities" after learning of the 2002 incident. Spanier did not tell the board what he knew about the episode and also made statements to the media that were unauthorized or contradicted the board's instructions, it said.
Spanier remains a tenured professor, the board said.
The board said it issued its explanations at the request of Penn State students, faculty and alumni.
(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Paul Thomasch)