In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, the Penn State campus is still trying to figure out how to cope. While the football team is trying to find ways to move forward following Sandusky’s conviction and the subsequent penalties imposed on the school by the NCAA — including a 4-year ban on bowl games and a $60 million fine — others are lashing out at the organization for the severity of the punishment. The Student Bookstore, an independent off-campus bookseller, is selling t-shirts that read “NCAA: National Communist Athletic Association.” (NCAA actually stands for National Collegiate Athletic Association.) The “C” is designed to look like the Communist hammer and sickle symbol. On the back, it reads, “Overstepping Their Bounds And Punishing The Innocent” is printed on the back. The shirt is neither licensed nor endorsed by the university.
Meanwhile, the football program has begun its atonement. In addition to the fines and restrictions handed down by the NCAA, the team will wear its apologies on its sleeve: according to a release from the school, the Nittany Lions will sport blue ribbons on their uniforms when they take the field next month to demonstrate their support of victims of child abuse.
The university also plans to update the team’s traditionally austere uniforms: the Lions have worn navy blue and white uniforms every season for the last 60 years featuring only the player’s number and a basic stripe — no names, no logos, no nonsense. The only update in recent memory made them even plainer — players’ numbers were removed from the sides of their helmets in the mid-seventies. But times are changing at Penn State: new uniforms will now feature players’ names, in addition to their numbers.
According to the release, the players contributed to the decision to alter the old uniforms:
Coach O’Brien says after speaking with some members of the team, they made the decision together to add names to the uniforms. Players indicated the names on their jerseys also mean they will hold each other accountable to uphold the traditions of Penn State football, both on and off the field.
“We want our fans to know and recognize these young men,” O’Brien said. “They have stuck together during tough times, and I commend them for the leadership they have shown. Moving forward, I’m deeply committed to honoring Penn State’s traditions, while building a bright future for our football program.”
Jerry Sandusky, the longtime defensive coordinator under Joe Paterno at Penn State, was convicted of 45 counts of child abuse on June 22. The trial showed that Sandusky abused dozens of children during his time at Penn State and that many incidents took place at Penn State facilities. An investigation commissioned by the university and conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh accused Paterno, who died in January, and several other university administrators of not responding to and even covering up multiple accusations of sexual abuse against Jerry Sandusky.
The NCAA came down hard on Penn State last month: in addition to the fine and bowl game ban, the school also suffered heavy scholarship restrictions. University president Rodney Erickson accepted the sanctions rather than submit to a “death penalty” — a wholesale, multi-year ban on football activities which would likely have killed the program entirely. The NCAA said last week that it will not hear an appeal requested by the Paterno family. However, Penn State trustees announced last week that they intend to appeal the strict NCAA sanctions, citing lack of due process.
As fans air their frustrations and the football program repents, life on campus moves on, and the memories of Sandusky and Paterno, once revered as heroes on campus, are gradually fading. So far nine players have left PSU under relaxed transfer rules that will allow them to play at another school this upcoming season (although more than 100 players, including several dozen walk-ons, attended the first day of preseason practice on Monday). Just off campus, the figure of Jerry Sandusky and the halo around the head of Joe Paterno have been painted over on mural of Penn State notables. The university has also removed a statue of Joe Paterno that stood outside the stadium for decades and plans to remodel the locker room where Sanduksy’s victims testified they had been abused.