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Scandal hurts Penn State as a school and a brand

Part of the immediate fallout from the investigation of child sex abuse at Penn State is economic. Sales of hats, shirts, and other items emblazoned with the Penn State name have plummeted.

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"We've never seen anything like this," said Brian Swallow, vice president of business development at Fanatics LLC, a privately held seller of licensed sports merchandise. "This is unique; there's nothing we can compare it to."

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The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company does not provide sales figures but Swallow said the company's Penn State sales have dropped 40 percent since the scandal broke, compared with the same period last year.

Just as no two scandals are alike, fan response varies from case to case.

Swallow said sales of Ohio State merchandise fell last year in the wake of an NCAA investigation into football players accepting cash and discounted or free tattoos in exchange for Buckeyes memorabilia such as jerseys and championship rings. The scandal cost coach Jim Tressel his job and led to several players' suspensions.

There was a drop and rebound for Ohio State merchandise sales, Swallow said, "but the Penn State drop-off is double that of anything we've ever seen."

"This is a large story and an unfortunate one. It really hits home for a lot of people," Swallow said. "It's one thing to have a kid sign a jersey and get paid for it; this is obviously something very different."

Powell said the only scandal he has seen come close to what's happening at Penn State is the furor surrounding Michael Vick's return to the NFL after serving 18 months in federal prison for dogfighting.

"There was a very visceral response," he said. "There are some people who will never forgive what he did but in many ways he has recovered from the scandal."

A sporting goods store in the heart of State College said sales of Paterno-specific merchandise are up.

"I'm not sure it relates to the situation or if people don't know how long those items will be available," said Caroline Gummo, advertising manager of The Family Clothesline shop. Also selling briskly is a new Penn State T-shirt that features a football helmet with a blue ribbon representing child abuse prevention, she said.

Five dollars from the sale of each shirt will be donated to the Let Go, Let Peace Come In Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that helps adult victims of childhood sexual abuse and is working with the attorney for several men who said they were victimized by Sandusky.

"Those have been a great success. We have seen people coming into the store specifically for those T-shirts," she said.

MONITOR QUIZ: Weekly News Quiz for Nov. 13-18, 2011

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