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Penn State Suffers Defeat On Top Of Scandal


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish. It's been a difficult and emotional week at Pennsylvania State University. The scandal involving child sexual abuse allegations and a potential cover-up is entering its second week. And yesterday, the school's football team played its first game without longtime coach Joe Paterno, and lost to Nebraska. NPR's Jeff Brady was there.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Late in the fourth quarter, fans hoped Penn State would still pull off a victory. It would have been a sweet one after such a difficult week, but that didn't happen and the Cornhuskers won 17-14.


BRADY: When the game was over, fans began a cross-stadium chant that has become a mantra for those who believe in the resilience of Penn State amid the scandal. Kathy Zimmerman says she comes to every Penn State game, and the atmosphere at this one was different.

KATHY ZIMMERMAN: It was a quieter, calmer day, I think. But I didn't hear anything negative today. Nothing. People just accepted the decision, and we're here to keep our dignity, I think, and the university's.

BRADY: The decision she's referring to is the one last week to fire longtime coach Joe Paterno. The scandal happened on his watch. Many say he should have called police after a graduate assistant said he saw former Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky molesting a boy in the locker room. Sandusky faces multiple charges. Two high-level university officials also face charges for not reporting child sexual abuse. Nebraska fan Brandon Hultman traveled here for the game, and says coming in as an outsider was a little uncomfortable.

BRANDON HULTMAN: To be honest, it felt different. It felt like I couldn't cheer my team; it wasn't right to cheer my team.

BRADY: Outside the stadium, there were plenty of tailgate parties, even while the game was going on. With a chilly wind blowing, Penn State alumnus Karen Schuckman says it's difficult to convey to people who don't live here what this scandal has done to locals.

KAREN SCHUCKMAN: If you're not part of the Penn State family, you can't understand how this feels and how personally it touches you. And I'm not exactly sure why that is, but I know that that's true.

BRADY: Retired school administrator John Glanz has a theory why. Penn State dominates the local economy, and the institution is a part of daily life for a lot of people here.

JOHN GLANZ: And having grown up here, you know, I have friends, family, neighbors - they all work here. Everybody, from the moment they build a building, you know, they hire some more janitors and plumbers and maintenance people and computer people and everything else, so...

BRADY: As the university has grown, so has the community that cares about it. Meanwhile, a criminal investigation continues, and the school is launching its own, internal investigation. Penn State professor Dennis Murphy predicts more bad news.

DENNIS MURPHY: It's going to be another tough week, I think. We know we have to move on but it's - there's still going to be things come out, we think, that I don't - we don't know about yet. And I think it'll stay - it's going to stay tough for a few weeks yet.


BRADY: As the marching band left the stadium Saturday, Penn State fans walked to their cars, a disappointing final home game behind them. Maybe next year will be better. Jeff Brady, NPR News, State College, Pennsylvania. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.