Tyler Morris and Darren Goldwater will don their Penn State hats and shirts with pride this weekend.
The Penn State graduates can’t help themselves. Despite the sex scandal centered on a former assistant football coach that has rocked the university community and its supporters, they still love their Nittany Lions.
“I support my university, and that’s not going to change because of this,” Goldwater, 31, a local sportscaster and 2002 graduate, said Wednesday before Penn State’s board of trustees announced the firing of legendary head coach Joe Paterno. “Am I disappointed and ashamed of what was allowed to happen? Of course. I think every Penn State alum is upset over what happened. But Penn State was built on the ideal of what (coach) Joe Paterno stands for: integrity, honesty, hard work and excellence. That hasn’t changed because of what has happened.
“As a Penn State alum, it’s what I believe in. This is bigger than the university and bigger than one person. It isn’t about the football program. Things happened that shouldn’t have happened, and the school’s name is being dragged through the mud as it should be, but I still love the university.”
Jerry Sandusky, Penn State’s longtime former defensive coordinator, was charged last weekend with 40 criminal counts of molesting eight young boys between 1994 and 2009 through his charitable foundation for at-risk youths, The Second Mile. He is free on bail and has a Dec. 7 court hearing.
“I’m really disappointed by this whole episode,” said Morris, 29, who has an undergraduate and graduate degree from the school in mechanical engineering. “I never thought that this would ever happen at Penn State. My office when I was a grad student was right across the street from the football complex, and to know that this stuff was happening makes me sick.”
Paterno’s squeaky-clean image came under scrutiny after he apparently failed to follow up on a report of the 2002 incident, in which Sandusky allegedly sodomized a 10-year-old boy in the showers at the school’s football complex. A witness, Mike McQueary, who was a graduate assistant at the time, reported the incident to Paterno.
“If Joe Paterno knew what happened and did nothing about it, he should resign today,” Morris said early Wednesday before the announcement of Paterno’s firing. “I don’t care about legal issues. He had a moral obligation to pursue this thing to find out what really happened. He and McQueary are required as human beings to make things right. If Paterno didn’t pursue it like he should have, then McQueary should have gone over his head. It was the moral thing to do. I understand that McQueary had to think about his career, but some things are bigger than a person’s career.”
The scandal reached the highest levels at Penn State, as athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz were charged Monday with failing to notify authorities after an eyewitness reported the 2002 assault. President Graham Spanier was fired along with Paterno on Wednesday.
“There are people out there who need to be held accountable,” Goldwater said. “They can’t hide behind Joe Paterno; that’s not OK. Those guys had an obligation to make things right, and they didn’t do it.”
Paterno, 84, has 409 victories, a record for major college football. Saturday, he would have passed Amos Alonzo Stagg for the most Division I games coached in history (both tied at 548) if he led Penn State against Nebraska.
Morris and Goldwater figure they’ve attended about 50 Penn State games between them. Morris plans to attend Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.