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. MikeG

    They fire Joe, but they allow McQueary to coach. How is ethical ????

    November 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • frankie b

      it is disgusting

      November 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JT

    The fact that there were victims in 2005/2006 proves that the Penn State establishment could have done more from the top (including Paterno). More lives were destroyed because Paterno didn't do enough. Those defending him frankly look idiotic and should be disgusted with themselves. They seem to only interested in protecting the Penn State brand. MLK stated "we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends", in this case silence destroyed a few more lives unnecessarily.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. SucksToBeFromPSUToday

    Sandusky and Second Mile did worse than anything known yet. It is being reported that he "pimped out" 10 year old boys to major university donors - people with their names on many of the buildings on campus. This is bigger than football - goes way, way beyond the program. It is also being reported that the "Johns" were wealthy Pennsylvanians including politicians in Harrisburg. The governor is already complicit in this as the DA that didn't put Sandusky behind bars. And we know that DA Gricar suddenly disappeared in 2005 and his laptop was found in the river without the hard drive. He clearly knew about all of this and was "disappeared" before he finished his investigation. And who would have been at the center of his investigation? Governor Corbett?

    JoePa is not the tip of the iceberg. In the end, we're going to find out he had almost nothing to do with this and is, in fact, pretty clean.

    But Spanier will go to jail. Corbett needs to be recalled - and he probably belongs in jail. And a host of wealthy, well known donors will be outed and they should go to jail too. They'll be renaming buildings soon at University Park.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • True Colors

      Are you serious? Where are you reading this? I haven't heard this before.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • SucksToBeFromPSUToday

      Try here:

      And here:

      November 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • changeusa

      i agree this is bigger than just Penn State, what the media has not caught on to yet, are all of the other coaches from high schools that served with Sandusky and went back to their high schools and pushed this program. There are alot more kids out there carrying secrets around. The DA and the Media need to also investigate all of the trainers , assistant trainers and any coaches that assisted with the summer camps. I have a feeling this does not stop at Penn State, this is a huge ring of predators and I am 100% sure that if the Media digs far enough they will find out the other secrets hiding out there and uncover the other offenders. I can personally speak, there are alot of concerned parents out there right now wondering if their child was a victim.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer G

      Totally agree with you...there is so much more that will be uncovered in years to come. I believe Gicar was murdered and that someone involved in all of this ordered the hit. This is perhaps the most heinous scandal that will happen in any of our lifetimes.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • changeusa

      I would like to know if any of these coaches knew what was going on?
      – Tom Bill (Assistant coach at Hunterdon Central (N.J.) HS)
      – Darryl Bullock (Assistant coach at North Carolina Central University)
      – Stan Clayton (Assistant coach at University of Toledo)
      – Steve Davis (Assistant coach at St. Thomas More (Conn.) Academy)
      – Troy Davis (Assistant head coach at Hargrave Military Academy (Va.))
      – Matt Evancho (Head coach at Saucon Valley (Pa.) HS)
      – Aaron Harris (Assistant coach at University of Delaware)
      – George Landis (Head coach at Central Dauphin East (Pa.) HS)
      – Joe Markiewicz (Assistant coach at Steel Valley (Pa.) HS)
      – Pat Monroe (Head coach at South Allegheny (Pa.) HS)
      – Dave Opfar (Head coach at St. Francis University)
      – Dan Radakovich (Recently retired assistant head coach at Robert Morris University and former Penn State assistant)
      – Andrew Richardson (Assistant coach at Robert Morris University)
      – Patrick Weber (Assistant coach at Morris Knolls (N.J.) HS)
      Penn State lettermen returning to assist at the camp include: Tom Cherry and Stu Helgeson
      Also on the camp staff are a pair of former Penn State Football graduate assistant coaches, Bob Forgrave, the head coach at Hempfield High School, and Chris Sprague, an assistant coach at Lock Haven University.

      it's amazing, that none of these coaches witnessed anything , some of these coaches are very good friends with Sandusky and Paterno. Can you actually tell me that while assisting with the summer football camps that no one witnessed anything? These camps get thousands of kids a year, i dont believe that the number will stay at 9 /15 / 20 who know's how many of these kids now men, are out there.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • MCTB

      Here's one blogger talking about the rumors Sandusky pimped out boys to major donors.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Redd


    November 10, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoePa WILL live on

      I hope your not catholic...If you are, every singe time a man in the cloth does such an act to a little boy, we need a new pope...

      November 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Will

      JoePa will live on - your defense is "two wrongs make a right"? Especially when it comes to ANALLY R`APING 10 YEAR OLD CHILDREN?


      November 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda Brown

      I totally agree with you!!!! I am willing to bet ALL of these coaches KNEW what Sandusky was doing all these yrs but cared too much about their own jobs so they looked the other way!! Kinda like that disgusting Cardinal Bernard Law who KNEW for DECADES what those maggot priests were up to! All he did was assign them to another parish hoping the "PROBLEM" as he called it would go away and all that did was make more kids into victims and he gets to live out his days at the Vatican when he should be sitting in prison himself. And last night with the riots, totally childish and stupid.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fan

      Again, Joe hadn't "worked with" Sandusky since 1999. You may still assign blame but so many people seem to think Sandusky was a coach while this happened in 2002. He retired in 1999.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Gabs

    "Maybe the police should have interviewed the witness"

    Maybe they would have if Paturno and the witness and others had reported the crime instead of protecting the criminal.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Barry G.

    The people who filed Joe need to resign, and they need to reinstate Joe.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • JD

      Really? You must not know football coaches. He knew exactly what happened, these guys control EVERYTHING. I am sure there were a lot of people who knew and all should be arrested. They and Joe Pa hid this to protect themselves and the U – disgusting.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • bpc

      So if your 10 your old child was the one abused by Sandusky and you found out Joe Paterno KNEW for 9 years and never called the police would you still want him to be reinstated? This is beyond football.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • 4chan

      They need to put Joe in jail, he allowed countless more boys to be violated just because he didn't want to deal with the problem. Evil can only be victorious when Good Men do nothing.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • dirkk03

      Good job Barry G. Defend pedophilia! Go! fight! Win!

      November 10, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lydia

      Are you a pedo lover too? SICKO. To say that "if he knew the extent of it, he would have done more," like these sicko pedo Paterno lovers makes me sick!! How much do you need to know about child rapists? How MANY times do you need to know before you go STRAIGHT to the police and blow the doors off of it!! SICKO pedo defenders. I don't care who you think you told. The minute you realize these people are still there, you know you need to do MORE!! You don't just keep your tail between your legs. Two wrongs don't make a right. You man up, and YOU blow it up. YOU go to the police. Every single person who didn't do that is responsible. Every single person who didn't is VILE. Are there more people who deserve to go down? YES. But did Paterno deserve what he got? DARN straight.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Think

      You don't really believe that do you? Please educate yourself. Truly, how is it you can justify Joe not getting the police involved. If someone came to you and told you they saw one of your staff members raping a 10 year old boy in the shower how would you have handled it? Please respond.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • frankie b

      Barry G– aren't you the child molester living in Pittsburg?

      November 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. phyllis

    This should be about the victims, of this abuse. Not about a football coach, or program.
    This is the most horrible thing, that can happen to a child, and the family of this child.
    How can these people live with themselves. Not going straight to the police, and reporting this terrible crime.
    I do not understand, someone seeing this happen, and walking away.......this is insane.........from an innocent child....
    Do they not have a heart, or any kind of feeling, for their fellow human beings.....a little child. how can this be?
    All i can say is they are sorry lowdown dirty rat Bast@rds.......... peace out..........

    November 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Redd


    November 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • True Colors


      November 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • frankie b

      right on

      November 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ELL

    Sounds like you spend allot of time thinking about it

    November 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Franco Harris

    We are...Pedo State!

    November 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • 4chan

      Pedo State Pedo Bears

      November 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Will

    Suppose you find out that one of your subordinates just got caught naked in a shower anally rap`ing/forcibly sodomizing a 10 year old boy. Which do you do? (Check all that apply)

    1) Kick his a`rse
    2) Call the police
    3) Refuse to work with him (and fire him if you have the capacity)
    4) Report him to your superiors, who apparently laugh it off, then keep working with him and calling him a friend like nothing happened??

    November 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • True Colors


      November 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lshen

      All of the above.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texan

      1 then 2 then 3.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fan

      Sandusky had already been retired for three years in 2002. He was not a subordinate. This are the kind of facts everyone is ignoring.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ginamero

    Dude, get serious help now.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Morgan

    Wy isn't the person who informed the coach of what happened also facing the same harsh scrutinty? He certainly should be as well. You can bet that if I witnessed what McQueary or whatever his name is, says that he witnessed, not only would I have informed my boss that very day instead of the next, I also would have reported it to the police. What the heck was this piece of trash thinking when he saw the pedophile around campus and town for the next several months and years? He should be deeply ashamed of himself and carry a massive weight of guilt for the rest of his life AND he should be fired immediately as well.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. schnikers

    Would have been nice if we had the riot over the child abuse.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. aNN

    GOP =Guardians of Pedophiles,  Thanks Paterno

    November 10, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
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