Local fans saddened by Penn State controversy

Published 4:54 pm Thursday, November 10, 2011

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

Paige Powell is joining fellow Penn State University graduates in a solemn response to the news of football coach Joe Paterno’s firing by the university’s Board of Trustees following allegations of sexual abuse against his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

Powell, a Maylene resident and president of the Alabama chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association who holds a Ph.D. in Health Policy and Administration from the university, and her fellow board members in the chapter have crafted a poignant response to the controversy.

In the aftermath of the sexual abuse allegations, the chapter will hold a donation drive to benefit Owens House in Columbiana, an organization that provides services and programs to serve child victims of abuse and their families.

The chapter will be putting together donation baskets to deliver to Owens House on Nov. 20. Contact AlabamaChapterPSUAA@gmail.com if you wish to contribute to the baskets.

“As alumni, fans and friends of Penn State, we are deeply saddened by the allegations that have come out in the media surrounding the football coaching staff and others in the administration,” read a statement released by the Alabama chapter. “We would like to convey that this is the act of a few and does not reflect on the thousands of current students and professors, or the more than 557,000 Penn State alumni worldwide. We are proud to be associated with such a great university whose reputation for excellence is well documented by its achievements throughout history.”

The Alabama chapter, which has held game-viewing parties at the Buffalo Wild Wings on U.S. 280 in North Shelby County, asks that the focus remain on the child victims.

“We hope that the media and other friends of Penn State nationwide will support the university and the victims of this travesty as we all begin the healing process,” the statement read.

As Pennsylvania residents, John and Linda Silinsky grew up admiring Joe Paterno and rooting for the Penn State University football team.

Even after moving to Maylene, the two felt a bond with Paterno and the brand of football played in State College, from the character displayed on the field to the high standards the university stood for in the community.

John Silinsky was saddened by news of Paterno’s firing.

Sandusky has been indicted for several cases of alleged sexual abuse against children involved in his Second Mile organization for at-risk youth in the State College community during the past two decades.

“I think it’s going to leave a black mark on the University entirely,” Silinsky said.

Silinsky, who was born and raised in Pennsylvania and still owns property he hunts on 30 miles outside State College, said university officials and coaches, including Paterno, didn’t do enough to stop the alleged sexual abuse when they found out about it in 2002. Silinsky especially found fault with Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary, who allegedly caught Sandusky in the act of sexually abusing a child on campus.

“It wasn’t handled the way it should have been,” Silinsky said. “I don’t understand why Mike McQueary didn’t do more. He should have immediately called 911 and put a stop to it right there.”

Silinsky said he is still a Paterno fan, but admitted college football’s all-time winningest coach didn’t do enough in the situation. He respected the Board of Trustees’ decision to fire the legendary coach.

“We were both Joe Paterno fans, and we still are,” Silinsky said. “But he made a mistake. Unfortunately, he’ll be remembered for this the rest of his life.”

Silinsky said he was also saddened by Penn State students’ reaction to the Board of Trustees’ decision to fire Paterno. Video broadcast nationally from State College has shown students setting property on fire and overturning vehicles.

“The kids tearing up the city is embarrassing,” Silinsky said. “That’s not what Penn State is about. It’s not what the United States is about, for goodness sake.”

Randy Clark, an Alabaster resident who was the only member of his family not born in Pennsylvania, is one Penn State fan who doesn’t think Paterno deserved to be immediately fired. Clark said the university should have allowed Paterno to finish the season as the Nittany Lions’ coach.

“I think his immediate firing was uncalled for,” Clark said. “Joe Paterno is a great man.”

Clark said he believes the attention should be directed toward the victims involved.

“I want it to be known that the children are the real victims here,” Clark said. “I think people have lost sight of that.”

Clark, a Thompson High School graduate, said he was also disappointed by the students’ reaction to Paterno’s firing. However, despite the controversy, his devotion toward the university is unwavering, Clark said.

“People still believe in Penn State,” Clark said.