Scandal-hit Penn State starts new football season

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 01, 2012 7:28 PM
Scandal-hit Penn State starts new football season

By Steve Keating

STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Penn State began a new football season on Saturday as it tries to come to grips with a child sex abuse scandal centered on former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and the death and fall from grace of head coach Joe Paterno.

The game opened with a "moment of reflection" for victims of sexual abuse. With Bill O'Brien replacing Paterno on the sidelines as the team's first new head coach in 47 years, Penn State lost 24-14 to Ohio University.

Many of the 97,186 fans at Beaver Stadium wore Paterno T-shirts, but there were no signs or other expressions of support for the man who had been part of the Nittany Lions coaching staff since 1949 and head coach for nearly five decades.

Paterno was fired late last year after the scandal broke, and died of lung cancer in January at age 85. Sandusky was convicted in June of abusing 10 boys over 15 years and is in jail awaiting sentencing.

In July, the National Collegiate Athletic Association slapped unprecedented penalties on Penn State's storied football program, including a four-season ban from bowl games, for turning a blind eye to Sandusky's crimes.

"It really isn't a new beginning yet," Anthony Lubrano, a recent addition to the Penn State board of trustees, told Reuters on Friday. "It won't be a new beginning until we come to grips with what ails this community and we address that.

"It's not in a new marketing campaign that says let's move forward and forget about that past. It's not in the removal of Joe Paterno's name from places around campus. They took the statue down but they can't take the memories away."

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The university removed Paterno's statue outside Beaver Stadium in July, but a cardboard likeness of the coach was erected on Friday at the same place with a sign that read: "JoePa made Penn State a Better Place."

There was soon a steady stream of passersby stopping to have their pictures taken with it, including a Penn State employee who worried aloud, "Are we all going to be fired tomorrow for this?"

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)