At Penn State, players are silent amid scandal

Posted: November 08, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The day before Penn State coach Joe Paterno makes his first public comments since an unprecedented sex scandal took the country by storm, more than a dozen news trucks and vans set up shop around Beaver Stadium.

Later Monday evening, Penn State began its quest to keep reporters from asking questions about Paterno's former longtime defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, who has been charged with sex-abuse crimes against minors. He has maintained his innocence.

"Media planning to attend Tuesday's Penn State Football weekly teleconference are advised that the primary focus of the teleconference is to answer questions related to Penn State's Senior Day game with Nebraska this Saturday," a Penn State spokesman wrote in a note.

Earlier Monday, a distance of just a few football fields away from Beaver Stadium, the players on Penn State's 12th-ranked football team walked into the Lasch Football Building for what they tried to treat as a typical Monday practice.

But it was not business as usual.

In the early afternoon - about the same time athletic director Tim Curley and former interim senior vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz were arraigned in Harrisburg on perjury and other charges - members of the Nittany Lions gradually made their way through a small media contingent to get to practice - some alone and some in groups.

Per team instructions, no players commented on the recent allegations that have left the status of Penn State's storied football program in limbo. As the players walked past reporters, many looked straight ahead, apparantly focused on getting to their safe haven on the other side of the Lasch Building door and away from the constant questions.

Shortly after getting inside - where a source said a players-only team meeting was to be held - quarterback Matt McGloin released a statement via his personal Twitter account over four consecutive tweets.

"I can't comment on what is going on with these allegations and scandal which has spread throughout the university," he tweeted. "But I can promise this. We will continue to fight towards our goal, a Big 10 championship. You fans have been great by sticking with us all year, even though we havnt won pretty, we've gotten the job done.. this team does not stop fighting and I do not expect this dilema to alter our level of focus and accountability. Last home game of the year!! Lets do it.. lets welcome Nebraska to the Big 10 Happy Valley Style!!"

As reporters from all over scoured Penn State's University Park campus on Monday, and national TV newscasts highlighted the ongoing scandal, the Lions seemed to be trying to tune all of it out and zero in on Saturday's crucial game against Nebraska. Judging from campus morale, the game hardly seems as important as it did a few days ago, when the nickname "Happy Valley" still fit.

Tweeted linebacker Nate Stupar, after the team's first practice since news of the charges against Sandusky broke: "All we can do is focus on us. Have a blind eye to the media. And continue to be Penn State proud #PSUNation."

Outside the team, one was hard-pressed to find anyone worried about Saturday's game. Social media websites blew up Monday with comments on the scandal, with many criticizing Paterno for not ensuring further action against Sandusky in 2002.

For a short time late Monday afternoon, a paper sign was taped to Paterno's statue outside Beaver Stadium. It read, "May no act of ours bring shame," the same words that appear in Penn State's alma mater.

Even Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg) High's Noah Spence, who is rated as one of the top recruits in the nation and had been considering the Lions, tweeted Monday that Penn State now might be out of the running for his commitment. Other recruits responded either with silence or "no comment" when questioned about their decisions to hold to their commitments to attend and play for Penn State.

What happens at Paterno's news conference - scheduled for 12:20 p.m. Tuesday - remains to be seen. But this week, leading to up to Saturday's final home game, will be unlike anything ever seen in this rural college town.


Contact staff writer Jake Kaplan at jake.kaplan1@gmail.com

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