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Published: Sunday, 11/20/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Fans of scandal-beset teams stay civil

Anger at Penn State absent outside OSU stadium

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Penn State fans celebrate after defeating Ohio State. Animosity toward Penn State was virtually absent outside Ohio Stadium on Saturday after pleas from the school to maintain respectful behavior. Penn State fans celebrate after defeating Ohio State. Animosity toward Penn State was virtually absent outside Ohio Stadium on Saturday after pleas from the school to maintain respectful behavior.
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COLUMBUS -- Two scandal-plagued teams approached each other at midfield Saturday and shook hands after the coin toss in a rare show of camaraderie.

That atmosphere seemed to permeate outside Ohio Stadium, with virtually no insulting signs in sight or animosity targeting Penn State University fans on enemy turf. Even the boos that typically greet the opposing team's entry to the field were muted.

In the end, perhaps the only insult that mattered came from Penn State -- a 20-14 win over the Buckeyes.

"We had a nonpermanent vendor giving us a hard time, but a couple of Ohio State fans came up to apologize to us on his behalf," said Malcolm Root, a Penn State medical school graduate who traveled from Tampa with his Buckeye-fan wife and their son.

The "hard time" that greeted them amounted to some rude expletives that may or may not have been a reference to the child sexual abuse scandal that cost Penn State its veteran coach, Joe Paterno.

Ohio State had sent out an email to students urging them to be on their best behavior and to avoid kicking Nittany Lions fans while they're down.

The beefed-up security did not appear to be necessary.

"We weren't responsible for what happened with [former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle] Pryor, so these fans are not responsible for what Joe Paterno may or may not have done," said Elizabeth Galko, an Ohio State freshman from Cleveland.

Ohio State is still waiting for the last word from the NCAA on its punishment for the memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal that cost coach Jim Tressel his job just months ago.

The NCAA has just launched its investigation into the Penn State scandal.

A pair of advocates for sex-abuse victims handed out flyers to game-goers at the stadium's main gate and held signs that read "Stay Vigilant for the Kids" and "Find and Protect the Wounded." Neither the signs nor the flyers made specific references to Penn State.

"We wanted people to see the parallels between what happened with the [Catholic] Church and what has been revealed at Penn State," said Kristine Ward, a Penn State alumna from Dayton and chairman of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition.

She was referring to institutions that are accused of first rallying around alleged perpetrators instead of their victims.

"It's a very hard subject to talk about," Ms. Ward said. "Everyone needs to keep in mind that it could happen here. People need to stay vigilant."

The allegations against former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky and the firings of Mr. Paterno and other top Penn State brass for not involving law enforcement years ago have pushed Ohio State's scandal to the back of sports pages.

Both teams walked onto the field Saturday unsure of their futures and whether a Big Ten championship, even if they should earn it, or bowl games still will be options once the NCAA is finished with them.

"The nation's looking for us to screw something up," said Deisha Warntz, a Penn State fan from State College, Pa.

"They don't want us to get a bowl game," added friend Gail Wilson, also of State College.

Beth Willard, a recent Penn State graduate from Indianapolis, said Buckeye fans seemed to go out of their way to offer assistance. She said she saw more anti-Penn State signs last year.

"They're starting to feel sympathy for us instead of just anger," said Sarah Richey, a Penn State student from Lancaster, Pa. "We're all the Big Ten. Every program that looks bad makes us all look bad."

Joel Root, Malcolm's brother from Philadelphia and another Penn State graduate, said he wouldn't have been surprised if there had been jokes at Penn State's expense.

"In today's environment, every school tries to make fun of the other because of their hardships," he said. "I'm sure we've had some jokes about Tressel. Those who live in glass houses don't throw stones. Both universities have to go through a healing process."

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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