The rippling effects of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s severe sanctions against the Nittany Lions football program didn’t take long to permeate an already heartbroken community.
"It's punishing the wrong people. We've gutted the program and gotten rid of the right people. The statue's down. And, to take all of our wins away is just heartbreaking," Dana Lortie, who will be a junior in the fall, told Fox43 News.
Lortie isn’t alone. There is growing indignation from some fans over the NCAA’s penalties, in particular the decision to vacate 112 wins from 1998-2011. Former football coach Joe Paterno coached 111 of those wins; vacating those wins knocks Paterno from the winningest coach in NCAA history to number 12.
"The wins … we didn't cheat in football, that's unnecessary," Penn State student Alex Gibson said Monday.
The sanctions stem from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and the university’s handling of it. In a report issued by former FBI director Louis Freeh, the university and Paterno were damned for failing to take appropriate action against Sandusky following the 1998 investigation into sexual abuse charges. Sandusky was convicted last month of 45 charges of sexual abuse.
"Jerry was a sick man," said Michael Robinson, who played for the Nittany Lions from 2002-2005. He later played for the San Francisco 49ers. "I just don't think that our program is defined by the actions of one sick individual."
While most agree the NCAA had to do something, crippling the football program and rewriting the history books is mainly viewed at punishing the innocent.
"The immediate impact is that the NCAA is allowing student athletes to transfer without penalty," ESPN’s Jerry Schaap said on “Good Morning America” today. "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."
Numb is the word Penn State student Allen Sheffield, a junior majoring in public relations, used to describe his reaction to the sanctions.
"Throughout everything that has happened this past year I've told myself and others repeatedly that the focus has to stay on the victims of the child abuse, not us," Sheffield says. "But now it's at the point where the student-athletes, who were still in grade school when this happened, are being punished."
NCAA President Mark Emmert said it best Monday when handing down the sanctions, "There's nothing in this situation that anyone should feel good about. This is an awful place to be in. It's not good for anyone."