(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) — Outrage over the sanctions against Penn State’s football program is high with some fans of the Nittany Lions football team, mostly stemming from the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s decision to vacate 112 of the team’s wins over the past 14 years.
In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, which has sent shockwaves through the State College, Pa., community over the past eight months, the NCAA hit the university with a $60 million fine and capped scholarships for players. While the legacy of once-beloved former coach Joe Paterno has been tarnished after he was accused of participating in the sex abuse cover-up, the stripping of the team’s wins stings the most for fans.
“People are thrown under the bus, institutions are thrown under the bus everyday for the bottom line. This is no different,” Penn State alum Eric Bernier told ABC News.
Every hard-fought victory earned since 1998 by the Nittany Lions, who were coached by Paterno for a total of 45 years, has now been removed — just like the statue of Paterno on the university’s campus.
“The wins … we didn’t cheat in football, that’s unnecessary,” Penn State student Alex Gibson said Monday.
The massive fine and harsh sanctions come in the aftermath of a damning report issued by former FBI director Louis Freeh, which harshly criticized the university and Paterno for failing to take action in the sex abuse case of Sandusky, Paterno’s former assistant coach. Students in State College are dismayed as they watch their once-proud university being humiliated again.
“It just keeps piling on and on,” student Maddy Proy told ABC News. “We are a huge family and this is just a huge blow to our family.”
The university president promised the fines will be paid from athletic reserve funds. Penn State makes $60 million on football alone every season. The fines will not affect the education of the other 80,000 non-football playing students.
“We will not use any taxpayer dollars to fund that fine. Period,” President Rodney A. Erickson said.
Perhaps paying the highest price and feeling most victimized are former players, who no longer have any victories in the record books — all of them wiped out by the Sandusky scandal, which they presumably knew nothing about.
Michael Robinson played for the Nittany Lions from 2002-2005 and went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers.
“Jerry was a sick man,” Robinson said. “I just don’t think that our program is defined by the actions of one sick individual.”
Speaking on Good Morning America Tuesday, Jeremy Schaap from ESPN, a sister network to ABC, said that the school may now lose some of its top football players.
“The immediate impact is that the NCAA is allowing student athletes to transfer without penalty,” Schaap said. “That means there might be a mass exodus … with no hope of playing at a bowl game, no hope to play in a championship, you would expect to see most of Penn State’s top players to move out of there.”
Schaap also says that he believes the NCAA is trying to send a message to the rest of the college athletic community that athletic programs cannot take precedence over the academic missions of universities.
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