Interim coach Bradley proud of players, fans

Posted: November 12, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - When he started out as a Penn State assistant coach in 1979, Tom Bradley didn't figure that fulfilling a dream to become head coach at his alma mater would begin under such an extraordinary circumstance - a child sexual abuse scandal.

Bradley found himself in the center of a firestorm when he was named interim head coach Wednesday night immediately after the Board of Trustees fired Joe Paterno. He appealed for "class and dignity" from players, students and fans, and was proud of the way they acted before and during Saturday's game against Nebraska.

Although it will take years for much of the cloud of the scandal to dissipate, Bradley felt Saturday was a positive start.

"I felt today that just maybe the healing process started to begin," Bradley said after the Nittany Lions lost 17-14 to the Cornhuskers. "When I got to the stadium today, I saw the support from those students and the solidarity with what they believed.

"I've had numerous calls from student activity groups, would I help them with helping [people] heal? Could I help with children? Could I do a lot of different things? I said I would. But just to see them all out there, in support and with the class they exhibited, maybe today is the start of the healing process."

Bradley appreciated the players' conduct throughout the week with reports related to the scandal, triggered by the arrest of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, swirling about them, and with media questioning them at length. Practices, he said, were their sanctuary.

"There were no distractions," he said. "They were happy to come because it was all about football. I saw a lot of joy at practice. They had a lot of camaraderie. They were just excited to get in with their group with no outside influences asking them question after question after question and not having to watch TV."

Once game day arrived, the Nittany Lions rallied from a 17-0 deficit but came up three points short. Still, he was pleased with the effort.

"The team hung tough; they showed a lot of resolve," Bradley said. "I was proud of them. I told them it was a privilege to coach them, the way they behaved this week, the way they stood up to a lot of different emotions and the outside influences that happened to them."

Free safety Nick Sukay felt Bradley did a great job keeping the Nittany Lions together even as he switched jobs from defensive coordinator to head of the entire team.

"When he talked to us during halftime he gave us the confidence that we needed to go out there and play hard," Sukay said. "It was a different dynamic than we are all used to in the locker room having him give the pep talk, but it was certainly what we needed."

Before the game, Bradley decided to leave the first seat of the first bus vacant in honor of Paterno, with whom he had been associated since his freshman year as a Penn State player in 1975. He also took the field prior to the game well in advance of his players, who locked arms in a show of togetherness as they walked out of the tunnel.

Bradley also said he had conducted a telephone conversation with Paterno since he last talked to the media on Thursday, and laughed as he recalled it.

"I knew what he was going to say and I was exactly right," he said. "I said, 'Coach, I'd like to come over and see you.' And I knew he was going to say, 'What for? You've got a lot to do. Take care of the team.' I didn't even have to listen."

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or


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