All eyes will be on the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday as the team is set to take on Nebraska. But in the midst of the school’s devastating sexual abuse scandal, football is the last thing on the minds of many.
Instead of a rally for the game, Penn State students plan on holding a vigil Friday night for the alleged victims of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse.
Friday morning, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett plans to attend the school’s regularly scheduled board of trustees meeting.
Corbett says that he supports the school’s decision to fire long time head coach Joe Paterno and University President Graham Spanier. Both men have been criticized for not telling police about allegations that Sandusky sexually assaulted a young boy on campus.
“I was disappointed in their actions,” said Corbett. “I support the board’s decision.”
While Paterno is not facing any criminal charges, he has reportedly reached out to Criminal Defense Attorney J. Sedgwick Sollers, famous for representing former president George H.W. Bush. Paterno could possibly face an onslaught of civil charges as the investigation continues.
Paterno may also lose his chance of being awarded the nation’s highest honor. Pennsylvania U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey are withdrawing their nomination for Paterno to receive the Medal of Freedom. There’s no word yet on whether Congressman Glenn Thompson will do the same.
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Paterno’s defensive coordinator Tom Bradley is now the interim head coach. He is the team’s first new coach in 46 years.
Reactions from both Penn State students and players have been strong.
“We’re just mourning right now,” said Senior Becky Salman. “Every move we make on our walk to class, people are asking us and we can’t even do anything because everything we do is wrong.”
“Really the only way you could describe it is with the simplest of words,” said Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin. “And that’s just ‘sad.’ The way they handled it and just gave Coach Paterno a simple phone call and told him he was fired, I think it was unprofessional.”
Receivers Coach Mike McQueary won’t attend Saturday’s game because of safety concerns. He has been widely reported as the person who witnessed Sandusky allegedly rape a young boy in a shower back in 2002. While he reported the incident to Paterno the next day, some say that both he and Paterno should have done more.
“He has a good heart,” said cornerback Stephon Morris. “A lot of people probably think he doesn’t, that he should have done more, but he did what he could.”
Some students however, don’t believe McQueary deserves to keep his job.
“I think he should be gone if JoePa’s gone,” said one student. “He actually witnessed the scandal and I don’t think it’s right that they leave him in there.”
“I think if JoePa has to go then McQueary has to go too,” said another student.
While some have said that Saturday’s game against Nebraska should be postponed or canceled, many players say Paterno would want them to still play.
There are currently rumors that seniors will boycott Saturday’s game. There is also speculation that students in the stands will wear blue shirts in honor of the victims instead of the normal white shirts. While all of this is merely speculation, one thing is for certain. Whether for all the wrong reasons or not, Saturday’s game will certainly be a memorable one.