FOR nine weeks, the Nittany Lions football team quietly and somewhat surprisingly continued to win and place itself atop Big Ten standings. Now, with the first of three vital games just days away, the players who fuel the program are being pushed to the wayside while we concentrate on the past non-football-related decisions of a few.
There are few who would rather discus their opinion on Saturday’s game than on the allegations that have recently graced headlines.
But, investigations are all everyone is talking about. And it has drawn the attention of several national media outlets.
It’s important to say that the boys identified as victims in the grand jury presentment are the ones who were truly hurt in all of this and can’t be compared to members of the 2011 team.
But, the current football program, specifically those who take the field each Saturday, deserve the recognition and support that has been a trademark of Penn State for so long.
Talk of students and alumni giving up tickets and not attending this week’s key game against No. 19 Nebraska just isn’t fair to a group of players who have shown a never-say-die attitude while winning several tight games.
And don’t expect this team to lose that attitude amidst all the focus on the scandals involving the former Lion assistant coach and school administrators.
Throughout the season, when asked how they continued to come up with key fourth-quarter plays, many players cited the team’s camaraderie as the reason why the Lions kept finding ways to win when it appeared there were none. Now, that team unity will be tested as a black cloud looms over the program.
The team is in an unfortunate situation in that these allegations are completely different than any of the other recent scandals in the NCAA. While the charges feature far more serious crimes than past schools’ infractions, there’s not a single player on the current team who is connected to any of the allegations against university officials.
As former Penn State football radio announcer Fran Fisher put it, recent events shouldn’t affect the way people cheer for the guys who are giving all they have for 60 minutes on the field.
“I would hope that the people understand that the young people who busted their butts to get into this game have absolutely nothing to do with what’s going on,” Fisher said.
“I would think they deserve the support they should get.”
Along with support on the field, an 8-1 team that’s ranked No. 12 in the BCS standings deserves some coverage for its accomplishments.
But with no players made available to talk to the media, articles about the Lions’ preparation for Nebraska may be slim.
It may be a welcome break for the players, as they don’t have to be badgered with the usual week-to-week football questions. But by not commenting, fans cannot share in the usual anticipation that’s expected for a game of this magnitude. Instead of reading about the race for a Big Ten title, athletes, students and fans will be subjected to the latest developments in the investigation of past miscues.
So while the media, students and rest of the nation talks about the “#PSUCharges,” the Lions will look to their team unity to maintain their focus and determination that has put them in a good position heading into their final three games.
According to some updates on Twitter, that’s just what they’re doing.
As senior linebacker Nate Stupar Tweeted: “All we can do is focus on us. Have a blind eye to the media. And continue to be Penn State proud #PSUNation.”
Ryan Loy is a senior majoring in journalism and is The Daily Collegian’s football editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.