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Paterno, Tressel departures spark reactions

Courtesy of MCT

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After the whirlwind of media coverage on major news outlets about former Penn State coach Joe Paterno’s dismissal for his knowledge of a sex scandal involving retired defensive coach Jerry Sandusky, it may be easy for Buckeye fans and students to compare PSU’s sex abuse scandal to Ohio State’s tattoo and memorabilia scandal.

While one scandal is a legal issue and the other involves NCAA violations, students at respective schools still have similar reactions to the loss of a football coach.

“There are similar reactions in the way (students) are responding to their team and their school and their coaches,” said Peter Cappucci, a first-year in mathematics.

PSU’s retired defensive coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of sexually abusing boys in a charity program, The Second Mile, a foundation created by Sandusky to work with at-risk youth. Sandusky is accused of sexually abusing the boys in his home and in PSU’s football locker room, according the grand jury report.

Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley, senior vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz, and assistant coach Mike McQueary allegedly knew of the incidents happening since 2002 or before, but did not report it to the proper authorities. Paterno did, however, report the violations to PSU officials, but failed to report the issues any further.

OSU’s scandal involved NCAA violations when football players sold memorabilia and received improper benefits from outside sources. Despite knowledge of the violations, former OSU coach Jim Tressel failed to report the violations.

News of OSU’s NCAA violations occurred in December 2010. Tressel resigned in May, months after the 2011 Sugar Bowl against Arkansas and prior to the 2011 football season. About 200 students rallied and visited his home in Upper Arlington, Ohio, to show support and sing “Carmen Ohio.”

After news of the sex scandal broke and Paterno cancelled his weekly press conference Tuesday, students rallied. About 300 PSU students showed similar support by appearing at Paterno’s house Tuesday evening.

“I definitely think students rise to the occasion to support their coach, especially these two coaches,” Cappucci said. “It’s not that they were just one- or two-year coaches, they were long tenure coaches and they were loved for what they did for the success they had at their schools.”

Paterno announced Wednesday morning he was to retire after the season, but PSU’s Board of Trustees vice chair John Surma announced Wednesday night that Paterno was “no longer head coach, effective immediately.” Thousands of students reacted by rioting on campus streets, throwing rocks and tipping a news van to its side in outrage about Paterno’s dismissal.

While OSU students were upset about Tressel’s departure, some students think that the riots on PSU’s campus were too much.

“(Paterno’s) done a lot of great things for (students) so I understand that when he goes out the way he did that they’re not going to be happy,” Cappucci said. “Some of it might be a little bit extreme, but you have got to move past it.”

Carlin Kelly, a fourth-year in veterinary medicine, said she thinks PSU students reacted too violently in comparison to OSU students’ reaction to Tressel leaving.

“There are similarities (in reactions), but we didn’t overturn a news van or something,” Kelly said.

Others were not shocked by PSU students’ reactions.

Jennifer Tripi, a first-year in exploration, said she was not surprised to hear about the riots.

“I think it was definitely well-expected. (Paterno) was a respected coach and I think obviously because it is in the middle of football season, students are not going to be happy about that,” Tripi said.

With all the publicity, Buckeye fans also cannot help but analyze the differences between the two scandals. Some students believe there is a similarity between the two.

“When you are in that leadership position, you have to deal with stuff like that, you can’t just sweep it under the rug and pretend like it’s not going on,” Kelly said.

Tripi argues that the coaches acted similarly, but PSU’s situation is more severe.

“I think they can be comparable, but in my opinion, the PSU situation is far worse and just out of the ordinary,” Tripi said. “(The coaches’) intent was not to hurt anybody but rather to stay out of the situation, which clearly wasn’t the right decision.”

Others say that the two scandals themselves are not comparable, but the consequences are similar.

“You can’t compare the scandals. We’re going to end up similar situations where the football team is going to break down for a while and you have to rebuild it, but the scandals are completely different,” Cappucci said. “(PSU’s) is a criminal offense, it’s not just a football offense.”

The grand jury report against Sandusky was posted on Pennsylvania’s court website on Nov. 4. Paterno’s dismissal came five days later on the Wednesday before the Nittany Lion’s three-week stretch of tough matches left in its season: Nebraska, OSU and Wisconsin.

Some students agree that they were shocked to hear about Paterno’s dismissal, but less surprised about Tressel’s forced resignation.

“I think there is a little bit of a difference in us and them in that ours was a build-up over a long period of time and everything you could kind of see coming whereas PSU collapsed in one day,” Cappucci said.

Despite views as to whether the scandals can be compared, students believe PSU’s situation provides a new perspective to OSU.

“Our students sold some stuff for some money but nobody was hurt,” Kelly said. “No innocent children were molested, you know, that’s really serious.”

With replacement coaches Tom Bradley and Luke Fickell, PSU and OSU will set aside the politics and face each other this Saturday. The teams are set to kick off in Ohio Stadium at 3:30 p.m.

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