Penn State campus subdued as scandal details air
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- On most Sundays in the fall, the parking lots surrounding Beaver Stadium are littered with trash.
Bags upon bags of tailgating remnants are scattered on the asphalt -- evidence of a football game just one day earlier.
But the lots around Beaver Stadium were quiet and clean on this Sunday after the off week for the Penn State, save for a few blowing leaves. The athletic department, though, was dealing with the biggest mess it might ever face.
Penn State is the most recent in a long line of prominent football schools to have its program shrouded in scandal. In recent years alone, the University of Southern California, Auburn University, the University of Oregon, and, this year, the University of Miami and Ohio State University have been under investigation for or found guilty of NCAA rules violations.
(Warning: Contains graphic content)
But the problems in Happy Valley are much deeper. In a system where a school can receive the "death penalty" for paying its players, Penn State's scandal -- which involves allegations of sexual abuse of young boys in university buildings -- is far different and much more disturbing.
This college town is still figuring how to cope with the allegations leveled against a community leader and former assistant coach -- and the supposed cover-up that a grand jury said traveled to the top of the university.
Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged Saturday with 40 counts related to sexual abuse of young boys. According to court documents, Mr. Sandusky identified young boys through The Second Mile Foundation, a charity he founded to benefit at-risk children.
Penn State junior Evon Onusic, 21, attended one of Mr. Sandusky's youth football camps about eight years ago and said he thought the coach was a great person.
He was always friendly as a coach," Mr. Onusic said. "He was so much fun at his football camp. He had great drills, he would always spend time with us and hang out. He was friendly, but back then, we were young. It's not like we noticed anything suspicious because we were naive."
Mr. Sandusky was Penn State's defensive coordinator for more than 20 years and retired from those responsibilities in 1999. Since then, he has devoted his time to his summer camps and Second Mile.
In the past couple years, though, rumors started to circulate throughout State College and the Penn State campus about Mr. Sandusky's conduct.
"There were always rumors and stuff," Mr. Onusic said. "You know how people talk. That's State College, though. We've got a lot of politics."
"There were rumors for a couple years," said State College resident Neil Christy, 68, "but nobody wanted to believe. Sandusky has done so much good."
Penn State sophomore Tom Dreibelbis, also a State College resident, once met Mr. Sandusky at a golf outing benefiting Second Mile.
"He didn't strike me as that kind of person," Mr. Dreibelbis said. "But I guess I was wrong. I just can't believe it."
On Sunday, the university announced it had barred Mr. Sandusky from going on campus.
First Published November 7, 2011 12:32 am