STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (CBS) – The cloud still hangs over Penn State, following stunning child sex charges against a former assistant football coach and an alleged cover-up by school officials (see complete coverage). But, today, that football team hosts Nebraska (kick-off is at noon). And, while there are security concerns about the game, many students are hoping it’s a chance for them to rally together to begin the healing process.
There is an increased police presence out here. Police have even installed a temporary communications tower for emergency personnel, in case anything does happen.
As for the game, many alumni making their first visit back to campus since the news broke, say they’re dealing with a wide range of emotions, but note that today is senior day for several players who, they point out, had nothing to with the allegations.
“It’s a strange environment. It’s going to be weird to be in the stadium today, but we’re here basically for the team; we’re supporting the players. (We) certainly don’t like the circumstances, but we’re still Penn State fans so…”
And no one’s forgetting the victims. Students are out collecting money for foundations working against child abuse. Alumni say that’s a good first step towards healing.
“With some of the riots and stuff downtown, from the outside media it’s looked upon negatively, so a football game — cheering on for Penn State — will be a good healing rallying call for us cheering on our football team for a big win.”
After 61 years with the team, it’s no surprise students in their late teens and early 20’s can’t imagine a football team without Joe Paterno.
“It made me so upset, but there’s nothing we can do about it. So what do we have to do? We have to focus on how we react.”
Following a riot in downtown State College after the Paterno announcement many people think there will be some issues today, students though say that’s not representative of the entire campus.
“Whatever happened at the riots, they’re still the minority. There are 45,000 students at this university and there were not 45,000 students downtown (rioting).”
Students, though, hope they’re classmates aren’t stupid today.
“There’s going to be people who do stuff like that, but I think we’re all going to be focused more on winning the football game. Forget about the bad things for a little while, try to keep our spirits up. But, there’s obviously going to be those kids that are going to do stupid things.”
Most students say they are thinking of the alleged victims and they’re very disturbed there may have been a cover-up. But they point out the players — their fellow classmates — had nothing to do with that.
Feelings on Paterno being fired are mixed, though most students asked, say they do wish they could have one seen him coach one last game.
Reported by Jim Melwert, KYW Newsradio 1060