MONT ALTO, Pa. — Penn State Mont Alto students had plenty to say Wednesday about coaching legend Joe Paterno being caught in the center of a child sex abuse scandal involving a former assistant coach, but faculty and staff remained mum on the topic.
The 84-year-old Paterno, who has coached the Nittany Lions’ football team for 46 years, was fired Wednesday night.
Paterno said he was “absolutely devastated” by the case, in which Jerry Sandusky, his one-time heir apparent and assistant coach, has been charged with molesting eight boys in 15 years, including at the Penn State football complex.
The university’s board of trustees forced Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier to step down immediately.
Despite notifying Athletic Director Tim Curley and a university vice president, Gary Schultz, Paterno is accused by some of not doing enough.
In a statement earlier in the day Paterno said: “This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
The ouster came three days before Penn State hosts Nebraska in its final home game of the season Saturday.
University officials referred all inquiries to Lisa Powers, media relations spokeswoman for Penn State University, State College, Pa. She did not return a message left Wednesday.
While university faculty and staff remained tight-lipped, students at the Mont Alto branch campus were eager to talk about the scandal that has thrust Penn State into the center of a national media storm.
The scandalous charges and allegations might have eroded the school’s standing in the collegiate football community, but 21-year-old Brooke Collins doesn’t want to tarnish the pristine reputation of Penn State.
“There are more things to this school than just football,” she said.
Senior Paige Harget, 23, wants new administrative leadership guiding the university.
“I don’t think they should clean house entirely, but maybe they should remove those who were responsible (for the scandal),” Harget said.
She wants all those involved who didn’t take action during the scandal to suffer the consequences.
Harget thinks the first person to be removed from office is Spanier, which occurred later Wednesday.
Sophomore Nicholas Harbaugh, 18, agreed.
Spanier is the one who covered it up, Harbaugh said.
“It (the scandal) might tarnish the reputation of Penn State a bit until people get past it, but you can’t beat Penn State’s education,” Harbaugh said. “We’re Penn State proud.”
Freshmen John Paul Baugher, 18, and Tyler Cheadle are die-hard Penn State football fans.
Baugher even doled out more than $200 for Nittany Lion season tickets.
“I think JoePa (Paterno) is innocent, I think he did his duty to inform higher-ups to what was going on,” Baugher said. “And I don’t think he should be charged with anything. He did the right thing.”
Wearing his Nittany Lion T-shirt proudly, Cheadle supports Paterno to a degree.
He dropped the ball in the handling of the situation, he said.
“He should decide to retire after this season. I feel he is guilty. He could have gone to the police right away,” Cheadle said.
While they might disagree on Paterno’s handling of the situation, they agree on one thing — they are proud to be Penn State students.
“This is my school. This is where I’m going to be going the next four years. It took everything I had to get into this school. What’s going on with the scandal has nothing to do with my academics or my athletics,” Cheadle said.