Penn State plays 1st game after scandal, fans react

November 13, 2011 4:50:06 AM PST
Penn State sports fans and alumni in the Chicago area were still reeling from the child-sex abuse scandal that exploded this week as the school's football team took to the field Saturday.

Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.

"There was one individual that did something that was very sick and how do we take that problem, and try to -- as hard as it's going to be -- how do you turn that into something that's going to help society? Because that's what we do as Penn State," said Penn State alumnus Scott Miller.

"The focus isn't so much on the football game, the football team and all that. I think the bigger picture is about the kids that were allegedly harmed," said Penn State fan Paul Youkhana.

Two university officials have been accused perjury, and both president Graham Spanier and football coach Joe Paterno were fired.

"The failure of few does not reflect how the rest of the university acts," said Penn State alumnus Justin Wright.

"That's just very scary that the top officials knew and allowed that to go on," said college football fan Molly Verble.

Saturday was Penn State's last home game of the season and the first time in 46 years without Paterno. Players from both teams kneeled together at midfield before a game filled with emotion and hope for healing. Most fans at the stadium wore the school's familiar dark blue in support of victims of child sexual abuse.

Paterno's firing initially prompted a group of students to angrily parade through the streets, but thousands of others held a candlelight vigil in support of the boys allegedly abused.

"I think it was nice, but I think it may have been a way to bring back support to Penn State," said Nebraska football fan Lacey Allen.

Penn State is now the focus of multiple investigations. Though the NCAA has not yet said if it will act, sports law attorney Eldon Ham says possible punishments range from probation to suspension of the school's football program.

"The NCAA rules do address a lack of institutional control. If I've ever seen a lack of institutional control, this is the definition," Ham said.

"I think other schools are really going to realize now that actions of a couple people in a program can completely tarnish and disrupt a whole football program and a whole college," said Penn State alumnus Cameron Smith.

In the end, victory went to Nebraska as Penn State was unable to recover from an early deficit.

"Well it was unprecedented probably in the history of college sports what went on here. And we grieve for the victims. We feel sad for the families, the children," said Tom Bradley, interim Penn State head football coach.

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