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Paterno’s ouster deals crushing blow to Penn State community

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, PA. At 1:45 a.m. Thursday, Pat Daugherty hunched over a broom in the middle of College Avenue and tried to sweep away reminders of the sadness heaped on this village in Happy Valley.

A sea of broken glass glittered under streetlights decorated with blue and silver snowflakes. Empty mace dispensers with pistol grips rolled near bright yellow leaves. Shreds of toilet paper and newspapers. A wet moccasin. Crushed cans of Natural Light beer. Rocks the size of baseballs, some smashed in half to reveal jagged edges.

"This is a hard day," Mr. Daugherty said to no one in particular.

Each push of Mr. Daugherty's broom made the glass crinkle. But the broom couldn't remove the heavy stench of spilled gasoline, couldn't undo the thousands of angry Penn State students who surged into the downtown's tight web of streets after the university's board of trustees fired football coach Joe Paterno with a phone call late Wednesday.

Retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's indictment by a grand jury Nov. 4 on 40 counts of child sex abuse plunged this central Pennsylvania town's postcard streets into chaos and dragged down Mr. Paterno, the university's beloved coach since 1966, along with university President Graham Spanier.

Streetlights toppled. Students tipped a truck from WTAJ-TV onto its side and smashed its windows. The baseball-sized rocks pelted police. White clouds of mace from state troopers in riot gear burned eyes as they floated through the intersection of McAllister Street and Beaver Avenue. The students' roar sounded like the ocean as it echoed through the streets until rain helped break up the riots around 2 a.m.

Nine hours later, in front of 21 television cameras and one police officer in Beaver Stadium's media room, Tom Bradley was introduced as Penn State's interim coach. At the university as a player and coach since 1975, the 55-year-old fought tears as he called Mr. Paterno one of history's "greatest men."

The interim athletic director, Mark Sherburne taking over for Tim Curley, who was charged with perjury in connection with the case stared at a piece of paper on the blue table in front of him and mentioned the "adversity" the football team faces.

Neither man mentioned that Mr. Paterno did not alert police after a graduate assistant, according to the indictment, witnessed Mr. Sandusky engaged in a sex act with a 10-year-old boy in a university shower in 2002. Neither mentioned the mob of students embracing Mr. Paterno's modest home Tuesday night as he led them in cheers of "We are Penn State" and told the board of trustees that it had more important matters than his job security. Students retreated to the same cheer during the riot, between choruses of "[Forget] the media" and "We want JoePa."

Four minutes into the 26-minute news conference Thursday, one local reporter asked Mr. Bradley who would start at quarterback Saturday against Nebraska.

"You've got to be kidding," a reporter from a national outlet replied loudly.

Queried about Mr. Sandusky a half-dozen times, Mr. Bradley glanced at what appeared to be a cue card in his right hand before saying he wasn't allowed to speak about the case. Mr. Bradley testified before the grand jury and isn't prevented from speaking about the case. University counsel told him not to comment, Mr. Bradley eventually acknowledged. The coach maintained that he wasn't aware of the 2002 incident or a 1998 police investigation of Mr. Sandusky regarding alleged inappropriate behavior around children.

No more questions about the starting quarterback followed, as Mr. Bradley outlined plans to hold together a reeling program.

Nine hours earlier on College Avenue, the 64-year-old Mr. Daugherty continued his cleanup effort. He didn't seem to notice the rain leaving dark spots on his blue shirt.

The Penn State graduate bought the Tavern, a few doors down, in 1980. The restaurant is as familiar to folks here as Mr. Paterno.

On Wednesday night, it offered specials of crabcakes a la Tavern and chicken alfredo as nearby columns of state troopers, wielding batons and stun guns, charged toward students.

One middle-aged man near the Lipstick Salon's pink entrance begged students to read the grand jury indictment. His words went unnoticed. The mob maintained some manners, however, offering "pardon" and "excuse me" when jostling one another. Others posed for pictures next to downed light poles and used cellphones to capture images of the crowd of thousands surging and splitting and reforming.

They talked about breaking television cameras and rejoiced over surrounding one group of six state troopers, their backs to one another in a protective circle, face shields down and batons cocked. Students joked that they looked like stormtroopers and hummed the "Imperial March" from "Star Wars."

A student cradled a life-sized cardboard cutout of Mr. Paterno through the mace, like a talisman.

Another group of state troopers marched three abreast down a deserted side street. Their heavy boots clomped on the wet pavement.

"Listen up," their leader shouted. "Students on College Avenue are throwing rocks."

The clomps quickened.

On a piece of paper, long discarded, rested a verse from Penn State's alma mater: "May no act of ours bring shame."

In the bushes off College Avenue, on ground turning to mud, a sign in running blue ink proclaimed "no neutral ground" in the battle against sexual abuse of children.

Mr. Daugherty swept up Red Bull cans, more broken glass and the sand firefighters used to soak up gasoline that spilled from the fallen television truck.

"I'm just trying to get this out of the road," Mr. Daugherty said.

"I have a feeling we'll be back here again," Ronald L. Filippelli, president of the borough council, told him.

Students trickled back from the riots. One said, "This is so awful." Another stopped to look at a blue sequined dress in the window of Mr. Charles Shop.

No one stopped to help clean up.

Two miles away, the Second Mile charity Mr. Sandusky founded in 1977 to work with troubled boys some of whom he is accused of abusing sat empty. Its white sign blazed, impossible to miss.

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