Penn State Team Shaken After Week of Turmoil

Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 03:30 PM

 

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Penn State's football team struggled in its final home football game of the year Saturday after its revered coach was fired amid a child sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has rocked the campus.

On a crisp, sunny autumn day, police monitored roads and patrolled the area from the air and searched fans thoroughly as they entered the 106,000-seat Beaver Stadium following an anonymous bomb threat made Friday night.

Many fans wore blue -- the color long associated with a "stop child abuse" campaign -- rather than traditional game-day white as they watched their Nittany Lions team go up against the University of Nebraska.

A group of male fans went bare-chested with letters spelling out "FOR THE KIDS" displayed across their chests in blue paint.

The Penn State team walked somberly onto the field, arm in arm, through an honor guard formed by the Blue Band, the university's roughly 300-strong marching band. Both teams then met at midfield to pray for those who have suffered from child abuse.

It is the first game in more than four decades in which Penn State will not be led by Joe Paterno, who has a record 409 victories under his belt since 1966 and is one of the most respected coaches in U.S. college football.

ESPN sports cable channel reported that Paterno had penned a note to the team Friday, saying he was heartbroken but urged them to focus on the game.

Interim head coach Tom Bradley, part of the team's coaching staff since 1979, said before the game that he had a flood of emotions going through his mind.

With his team, which came into the game with an 8-1 season record, down 10-0 at halftime to the lower ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers, the taciturn Bradley said Penn State needed to "get back to fundamentals."

 

UNPRECEDENTED UPHEAVAL

The firings Wednesday of Paterno, 84, and college president Graham Spanier touched off scattered violence from protesting students.

The Nittany Lions' assistant coach, Mike McQueary, a central figure in the abuse scandal, is also absent after being put on paid administrative leave Friday.

McQueary has testified to a grand jury that he saw former defensive coordinator Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky rape a boy in the showers at a campus locker room in 2002 and said he reported it to Paterno.

Paterno, who has not been charged, said he told his boss but did not call the police.

Sandusky, 67, ran the Second Mile charity program for at-risk children and retained access to Penn State facilities after his retirement in 1999. Prosecutors said he met all his alleged victims through the nonprofit group, which says it cut ties with him in 2008.

He was charged on Nov. 5 with sexually abusing eight boys over more than a decade. Former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and former finance official Gary Schultz, were charged with failing to report an incident.

Sandusky, Curley and Schultz have all denied the charges.

 

TAILGATE PARTIES

Despite heavy security and signs outside the stadium saying police had found nothing after investigating an anonymous bomb threat at the stadium Friday, the campus of 45,000 students in central Pennsylvania was exuberant with marching bands, cheering fans and tailgate parties.

LateFriday night, instead of the usual pregame rally, an estimated 10,000 students conducted an emotional candlelight vigil in front of the main administration building for the young boys who were victims of alleged sex abuse.

A group of Penn State alumni is raising money for a rape, abuse and incest survivors' group.

Sandusky was once considered a likely successor to Paterno.

The scandal reverberated as far as Wall Street when ratings agency Moody's warned Friday of a possible credit downgrade for Penn State.

Penn State's board of trustees Friday appointed Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of drugmaker Merck & Co. and a Penn State alumnus, to head a special committee to investigate the events that lead up to the charges against Sandusky.

 

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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