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Reflections On Penn State And Syracuse

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Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky after being released from jail Thursday. Sandusky spent a night behind bars following a new round of child sex abuse charges. (AP)
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky after being released from jail Thursday. Sandusky spent a night behind bars following a new round of child sex abuse charges. (AP)

This week former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested on new charges of sexually abusing two boys. He spent one night in jail before his wife posted his bail. He's now confined to his home.

Meanwhile, a man who has accused former Syracuse University assistant men's basketball coach Bernie Fine of molesting him in 2002 filed a civil suit against Fine. Fine's attorneys say "there is proof" Zachery Tomaselli  "fabricated" his allegations. Tomaselli is one of three men who allege that Fine molested them. Tomaselli is also facing charges that he molested a boy in Maine in 2009.

The ongoing developments in both stories have particular relevance to Only A Game's Doug Tribou, who wrote the following commentary.  

When I was 4 years old my family moved to New Jersey, where we lived for several years. My parents were not college football fans, but I fell in love with a team from across the border — Penn State.

I had a Penn State T-shirt. I remember watching the Sugar Bowl on television as the Nittany Lions beat Georgia and clinched the 1982 national title.

A few years later, for my birthday, my dad took me to see Rutgers host Penn State at Giants Stadium. I can hear the booming call-and-response chant of students who’d road-tripped from State College, Pa.: “We are!” “Penn State!”

When the news of child sexual abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky started to come out, I couldn’t help thinking of my childhood memories of the Nittany Lions.

As a kid, I didn’t know who Penn State’s defensive coordinator was, but now I realize that Sandusky was on the sideline when my father and I were cheering in the stands. Today I’m a dad myself. It’s been nearly 30 years since that game and with Sandusky accused of molesting 10 boys, it’s hard not to wonder if that spider web will keep growing.

My connection to Penn State was never deeper than that. I was a fan and nothing more. That’s because after high school I attended Syracuse University.

I don’t know former Syracuse assistant men’s basketball coach Bernie Fine, who’s also accused of sexually abusing boys. I don’t know head coach Jim Boeheim. I’m an alum and a fan.

The two cases have significant differences, but in both instances men stand accused of committing horrible crimes against vulnerable children.

The other night, I watched “The Express,” a movie about legendary Syracuse football player Ernie Davis.

With shots of the Syracuse campus and actors in familiar orange and blue uniforms racing across the screen, I was enjoying the trip back in time.

While the movie was rolling through the Orangemen’s national championship season of 1959, text appeared that made me hit the pause button. It read: “Syracuse vs. Penn State."

Instead of smiling at the idea of my alma mater facing an old favorite, I just felt sad.

I’m proud that I went to Syracuse and I’m sure most Penn State grads feel the same. These are large institutions with talented, thoughtful educators and staffs that have helped thousands of students improve their lives.

I’d like to think one day those traditions will again be the first things to come to mind, but it’s far more important for these disturbing episodes to run their full course. And trying to forget them would be an even greater mistake.

This segment aired on December 10, 2011.

Doug Tribou Reporter/Producer
Doug Tribou was formerly a reporter and producer at WBUR and for WBUR's Only A Game.



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