November 10th, 2011
12:26 PM ET

Penn State grapples with conflict over coach's firing, horrific allegations

With feelings running high on campus after the firing of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno and the university’s president, a debate is raging about where the focus should rest in the scandal.

The Happy Valley family is dealing with raw, conflicting emotions sparked by child rape allegations that threaten to shatter the reputation of a great football coach as well as the school’s image.

The expulsions of Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier capped another chapter in the fallout from charges against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

On Wednesday night, the man who had been at the helm of the iconic football program for 46 seasons was greeted by cheers befitting a father figure viewed as the face of the university.

Except this was no football celebration. It was like a farewell to an era as Paterno spoke to members of the crowd, who clutched phones and waved their arms in the air.

"What can I say, I'm no longer the coach," Paterno told about 15 students gathered outside his house late Wednesday. "It's going to take some time to get used to. It's been 61 years."

The crowd chanted that they loved Paterno. Some of the students, many of whom came to Penn State because of its storied football program, apparently weren’t sure how to cope with news of the famous coach's firing and the allegations of what happened.

iReport: In praise of Joe Paterno | Student, parents shocked by allegations

But Paterno, known for being hard-nosed when it comes to education, seemed to feel he needed to temper the mood of the students, telling them to go home and get some sleep. “Study,” he said, as he peered from the walkway of his home.

Chants of “We are Penn State,” the rallying cry of the school, could be heard in the background.

In the town of State College, that phrase has taken on a new meaning Thursday. And it’s one some of the students are fighting to protect -  especially after the scene on campus quickly changed overnight: Students spilled into the streets. A news van was tipped over.

Then massive crowds swarmed the Old Main, the former administration building. Things by all accounts got out of control.

While those scenes are played over and over again on TV stations across the country, many students say they don't want those images to define them.

Hundreds may have flocked to Paterno’s home or to the grand bronze statue that towers over the campus, but they represent a small percentage of Penn State’s 35,000 undergraduate students. Some, including T.J. Bar, the student body president, said they want to change the focus of this debate from the emotions of football to the seriousness of the alleged events.

In some ways, at University Park, the campus is divided.

Some still mourn the loss of the almost godlike coach they have grown to love. Others are struggling with the heinous allegations.

The question of how the campus should move forward was at the heart of an editorial in the campus newspaper The Daily Collegian:

“Wednesday night was an embarrassment for Penn State. This is about more than Paterno and Spanier. The way students reacted set our university two steps back," the editorial said. "Penn State does not need to be put in a worse light than its leaders already have. The spotlight was on Penn State last night and we only drew more negative national attention to the Penn State name. The national media did not come for the students, but they stayed because we put on a show.

"The emotions brought on by the night varied from somber and respectful to angry and unlawful. This is not what Joe would have wanted.”

But it is what unfolded. And it’s also what students are trying to change in the wake of the scandal that rocked the campus.

“I think the emotions kind of run the gamut in terms of Joe Paterno,” Bard said. “I think a lot of students are obviously in support of Joe Paterno, but I also think a lot of students are realizing there may be more to this story than we realized. At the end of the day fundamentally what matters most is that justice is found for victims and their family and they can truly find some closure after this.”

Dave Cole, a junior studying journalism and political science at Penn State, who grew up in State College and whose parents both teach at the school told CNN’s iReport that he thinks there’s a mix of anger about how the events unfolded as well as who should be blamed.

“People I think initially are very angry at the University for firing Paterno. I think that there are a lot of people that wish that more of the blame was being levied on Sandusky right now,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of animosity toward the media and the role that the media played in framing Paterno in this. A lot of anger, sadness and frustration in students.”

Bard said many students feel the story isn’t just about saving the reputation of a mighty football program. (The financial implications of the scandal may be heavy.) It should be about the alleged victims and the investigation of what took place on the campus.

“I think a lot of students are realizing that due to the national media coverage there’s been a huge oversight of the victims and their families in all of this, and I think students are getting very, very frustrated that this is more than about a football program or a coach - this is about the victims and finding justice for them at the end of the day.”

Daniel Johnson, a 23-year-old business student who was at the rally Wednesday night, told CNN's iReport the scandal has “tarnished everything we students have come to be proud of here at Penn State.”

Johnson said he rallied at the Old Main, not just in frustration about Paterno's firing, but in support of the alleged victims and as a cry against what he fears happened to them.

“We are not responsible for the decisions made by school officials, who at the end of the day are Joe's bosses. We firmly believe that Joe would never turn a blind eye to something as sick and disturbing as this, had he known the full extent of the situation,” Johnson said. “... We pray that the victims can find a way to move on from this and find peace.”

Bard said that a candlelight vigil was planned for the alleged victims as well as a slight change to this weekend’s football game. Instead of the traditional “white-out” in which the entire student body wears white in support of the Nittany Lions, students are encouraged to participate in a “blue-out.”

An unofficial Facebook page encouraged fans to wear blue "to support the victims of child abuse worldwide. The Blue Ribbon Campaign against child abuse began 22 years ago and is recognized across the country.

“In addition to being the color of our team's home game jerseys, blue represents the color of bruises that have too often been neglected,” the post said.

Bard said he hoped this weekend’s game would be a chance to change the tide.

“It’s not about a football program; it’s not about a coach. … (It's) about moving forward,” he said. “This is a crucial point for this student body to really be able to move forward, unite together and remember the pride that really is involved in Penn State.”

That's a sentiment that Cole couldn't agree with more. He also  hopes that this moment can be turned into a major turning point for the school.

“I think that the image of this university is as low as I can ever imagine it being. I think that bouncing back from this will be difficult. I think that my first impression of the decision is that it was for cleaning house and fixing the image as soon as possible. ... I think that how we bounce back is very important,” he said. “What a few thousand students did last night unfortunately speaks out as what the whole 40,000-student body did. I think that there needs to be a way to get out the message that these actions do not speak for the whole body.

"The nation and the media need to see Penn State not as a violent student body, but as a minority of the students who did it out of anger and that was not the way to demonstrate that.”

soundoff (1,613 Responses)
  1. Charles

    People seem to be losing focus that the monster was Sandusky. Can we wait for the investigations to be done before determining culpability for Paterno. Seems at worst he pulled a "Catholic Church"... you know, when you send your pedophile around to five different churches hoping he'll change at one of them. Imagine if they fired the entire chain of command in those instances... we'd have a new Pope weekly.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony Hopp

      Join the Facebook group MIKE MCQUEARY IS A COWARD!/pages/Mike-McQueary-is-a-coward/200672753340602

      November 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • bottleman57


      November 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Paulina

    I don't care if Joe Paterno was a great coach, a legend, if you know about child abuse and you don't follow up then you are as guilty as the abuser. Someone like Joe Paterno would have had the power to make a difference, if he said there could be abuse then an investigation would have revealed what was revealed today. I know everyone is hung up on the technicality that he did not break the law but what he did was turn a blind eye. If I heard from a student that something like that was going on I would not stop until I knew the adminstration did the correct thing. You are foolish to believe that reporting to your superior is enough, it is not enough especially when you are someone with power like Joe Paterno. Everyone in that administration who knew anything should be ashamed of themselves for turning a blind eye to avoid bad press. Penn State students grow up and think about what is important.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jamie

      Well said!

      November 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Daniel

    I cannot believe that football is more important than children for these people. All this community seems to be disgusting and dumb.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • bottleman57

      This is not about football. It is about persecuting people because the media wants a BIG story. Where were all of the stone throwers 10 years ago when these allegations came to light? Nowhere. The media did not get their teeth into it until recently. The real COWARDS are McQueary and the Board of trustees. Paterno is a good man, and did his duty to notify the proper people. This would have included the Campus Police knowing about this as well as the Board. Let's get to the real problem and stop falling into the media trap. The victims have our sympaty and there is no excuse for Sandusky, so let's concentrate on him

      November 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tom

    If the news media would bother read the grand jury findings, they would report instead of incite. In 1998, there was an investigation of Sandusky that was presented to the Centre County District Attorney. Quoting from page 19: "the investigation was closed after the Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar decided there would be no criminal charges." The man who had was elected to protect the community from criminal activiy, who was sworn to do so, and who was paid to do so, refused to act! This horror continued for another 13 years! Yet the news media can't find the fault! Instead of facts, the news media deals in assassination by sound bite and trial by lynch mob. "Lynched" is what happened to the staff and employees of Penn State. That because the DA did not act to protect the community according to his oath. The media will continue to ignore this major fact in the grand jury report. And, no one in the media establishment has the courage to seek the truth.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      tom: "Instead of facts, the news media deals in assassination by sound bite and trial by lynch mob. "Lynched" is what happened to the staff and employees of Penn State. That because the DA did not act to protect the community according to his oath."

      Oh please. If the DA does nothing you aren't absolved of all responsibility. If you know a crime is being committed and the authorities can't find evidence of the crime, you have an absolute moral duty to pursue the claims until the rapist is caught and charged.

      There can be more than one culpable party when it comes to the commission of a crime.

      Please stop defending the indefensible.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      In addition, Ray Gricar the DA who did noting went missing on April 15, 2005 and has never been found.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Penn State Grad

      Read this. I hope the link still works. Anyone who could have stopped Sandusky should have.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nah

    gypsy: "Joe Paterno is not responsible for this crime. He did molest anyone"

    You're a mom, eh? Hope your kids are diddled in the showers by their coaches.

    Paterno didn't molest anyone but he 1) knew the ra- pe was occurring, and 2) failed to report the crime when he knew his supervisors were doing nothing.

    Hence, he aided the further ra- pe of other children by allowing a pedophile to stay in a position of authority, and where the pedophile (apparently) had access to kids.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      mat: "Sure I can...Joe committed no crime so there is no reason to fire him. If a lady can get $1 million for pouring a cup of coffee on herself, then JoePa can easily win this argument"

      First, your analogy is horrendously flawed. He can be fired for facilitating a crime on his employer's property, or by ignoring a crime that is being committed.

      Second, his "not" committing a crime is therefore irrelevant.

      "Oh, and thanks for the "moron" name calling. ... By the way, I have three degrees, so the "moron" tag really doesn't fit. But thanks anyway...I love you too!"

      You're not a moron because you have "three degrees", you're a moron because your arguments are ludicrous.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carlton Bankz

      Allowed to stay in a position of power? Sandusky hasn't been an employee at Penn State or part of Paterno's football staff since 1999

      November 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • TexasJack

      If there is anyone to blame first is the graduate assistant (now coach). BTW-He hasn't lost HIS job.

      Even the county attourney said that firing both of them now was a mistake, questioning the board's decision to terminate Spanier and Paterno without consulting with alleged victims.

      "They should have considered these victims watch TV and are aware of the students' reaction, and may not want to be associated with the downfall of Mr. Paterno," Andreozzi said. "The school instead elected to do what it felt was in its own best interest at the time. Isn't that what put the school in this position in the first place?"

      November 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. zeber

    did you say "PEEN STATE"?

    November 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. philip boutwell

    Is football and the life of a 84 yr oild man who shd've retired many yrs ago when he had 4 losing seasons ("I will retire when I want to" he told his AD then is a further sign of who was in charge) more important than the peace of young kids ? the viloence by students shows that JoePa and football is!
    It shows what football means the PA St.
    "Is life more precious......"

    November 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mare0568

    m at a loss as to how this has gotten to be Joe Paterno did these crimes and he's the pervert. Do people not read? It certainly would explain the high rate of illiteracy in this country. Read the indictment. Joe did NOT witness or SEE anything. He heard about it ONCE, while SANDUSKY WASN'T EVEN ANY LONGER A COACH OR AN EMPLOYEE OF PENN STATE. Joe got second-hand information and went to his superior IMMEDIATELY. So many fricking opinions and so many people without a clue as to what they are talking about. Furthermore, this twit in charge of the Student Body - you honestly sound like you are a member of the Board of Directors. YOU'RE the problem also. If people - and not just Penn State students and fans - don't start standing the hell up for your rights and for justice in this country - then we're going to end up as a country of puppets. I just don't understand it. It's the same way with our government. So many people are complacent and quiet and don't want uprisings or people speaking out, etc., etc. It disgusts me. You should have been around in the late 60's and early 70's. I really believe it's the last time the public stood up for themselves and for what's right. Yes, everyone is concerned about the boys and what happened to them but the media won't even focus on them for a minute. Blame the media for that and for their witch hunt for the one person who did the most for your university and who has the least amount of guilt, if any. YOU probably went to Penn State because of what Penn State stands for (or did) too - and a lot of that whether you like it or not or like football - had to do with Joe Paterno and his contributions to that school. As for the parents of these boys, no, I don't wish them healing. The boys yes, but honestly I feel that out of 9 victims and only ONE parent spoke out - that they were just as complicit also. The boys came home with a showering of gifts, an older man who wasn't even a family member was taking their sons off at all hours and all places - what the hell kind of parents are these people??? They are just like that boy a few years ago whose family was paid off by Michael Jackson. Even if they weren't paid off by Sandusky I find it hard to believe that NONE of them thought the whole situation wasn't WEIRD. So, no, I don't feel for the families. People really should get their facts straight before they mouth off their opinions.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • bottleman57

      You are correct. We glorify Michael Jackson the pedophile and now make him out to be a victim of his own abuse. We just saw a GUILTY and cowardly Board of Trustees crucify Joe Paterno in order to shove the attention from themselves. We have a DA who is just as guilty as anyone who found no evidence, an assistant coach who is afraid of his own shadow and a Governor that will not step in and rectify the situation. Sad state of affairs.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Calandra Cooper

    Paterno is MORE guilty because he allowed it to CONTINUE HAPPENING! ANYONE who supports him as a freak and completely out of their mind. And the crazy a– students should find a real and worthy cause to protest. Not for the further protection of a person that was complicit to ON GOING crimes. Sickos.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. The Pope


    November 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steven

    Instead of acting like mindless hooligans, Penn State students should have organized a memorial march for the poor boys who were so maliciously violated by this predatory adult.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JWD

    The following people failed the victims:
    Curley (AD)
    Shultz (Penn State Police)
    Spanier (President)
    Board of Trustees
    Tom Corbett (Gov | Previous AG | BOT)
    Mike McQueary (Did nothing to stop this)
    McQueary’s Father (giving him bad advice)
    PA. Dept of Public Welfare (Closed two investigations against Sandusky without charges -’98 and ’02)
    Paterno was following established protocol. If he would have went to the police as a third party, they would have taken a statement and put it in a file until the victim of eye-witness filed a report (PA Statutes)

    November 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • ES

      If someone tells me about a crime in a workplace, I 'd tell my boss, syre. But I will also tell the person who saw the crime to call the police. And if they dont' call, I'd call and report them to police.
      You boss is not police, a boss cannto investigate a crime.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fire McQueary

    The MAIN PERSON RESPONSIBLE for reporting this repugnant crime IS MIKE McQUEARY!!! He (a 28 year old man) COWARDLY ran to his daddy for advise after WITNESSING first hand, right in front of him, this crime!!! HE DID NOT CALL POLICE, HE REPORTED IT TO A COACH 24 HOURS LATER. This allowed Sandusky to continue to violate kids.


    November 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bottleman57

    The PSU Board of Trustees have played the card masterfully in their favor and the media took the bait hook, line and sinker. The buck stops with them, but they have created such a diversion by firing paterno, that they are well behind the smoke screen. This is the All power at State College and they HAD full disclosure of this for 10 years, yet they are still there. They are the culprits, not Paterno. Mr. Corbett; time to be a Governor and clean house completely starting with the Board.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ELL

    This kind of illustrates how athletic programs at universities (particularly football – because it brings in so much money) are often in the mindset that they are above all the rules that everyone else has to live by. Almost every university has to deal with this – coaches and student athletes foremost loyalty is usually to their sports program. Whether it means giving athlete students passing grades when they don't deserve them, enrolling children of donors who don't deserve it or squashing/not reporting any ugly story before it gets to the media and beyond your control. It doesn't help that many of these 18 or 19 year old students (as well as 81 year old coaches) are treated like gods on campus and get multimillion dollar contracts if they are lucky enough to play the game professionally.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
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