NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Sports

December 27, 2013

Two years later, scandal still divides Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The equipment is put away for the winter.

The stadium will be empty for months.

The Nittany Lions aren’t going anywhere.

And Joe Paterno’s statue is still nowhere in sight.

But if you want to see for yourself what the NCAA’s version of purgatory looks like, then by all means, come visit Happy Valley in the middle of another bowl season from which Penn State’s football team has been banned. If nothing else, the locals will appreciate the business.

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Some two years after Jerry Sandusky’s name and stomach-turning deeds exploded in the headlines like a thunderclap, the reverberations ripple across this campus and community still — and will for years to come.

Several victims of Sandusky’s serial sexual abuse continue to live nearby and the trials of three former Penn State administrators, as well as a handful of lawsuits over who shares the blame and how much, are wending their way through the courts. Meanwhile, Sandusky, who turns 70 next month, sits in a maximum-security prison three hours’ drive west of here, serving a 30-to-60-year sentence.

Most townspeople, many alumni, faculty and students, and especially Paterno’s family still chafe over the injustice of a university’s reputation dragged through the mud, and a coach’s legacy of wins and good deeds crumpled up and discarded like just so much litter.

Over the course of his 61 years at Penn State, Paterno became not just the face, but the cantankerous soul and benefactor of a school that was transformed from a “cow college” into a top-shelf public university. But to find any trace of him today, you either have to visit the library he and wife Sue raised funds to help build — where the family name remains etched in stone — or drive a few miles out of town, where a giant billboard juts out from the rolling landscape stubbornly proclaiming “Joe Paterno, 409 wins” in Penn State’s famously spare blue and white color scheme.

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