News that a former assistant coach at football-centric Penn State University had been charged with sexually assaulting young boys for years drew reactions from students and residents on Sunday ranging from shock to indifference.
Former Penn State football defensive coordinator Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky, 67, of State College, where Penn State is located, faces an array of charges involving eight boys, assaulting at least one in the college team's facilities, according to state prosecutors.
Penn State's athletic director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave and Gary Schultz, interim senior vice president for finance and business, will return to retirement to give themselves time to defend themselves, Penn State said in a statement on Monday on its website. Some are now questioning whether Penn State long-time football coach Joe Paterno will also be forced to relinquish his position.
Sandusky's attorney Joe Amendola has said his client, who left Penn State coaching in 1999, was shaken by the charges but knew they were coming. "He's maintained his innocence," Amendola said.
"People are definitely talking about it... it's totally gross. The university in general tries to cover up everything," said Marijane Mackey, the dreadlocked manager of the Jamaica Junction clothing store in downtown State College.
Massimo Napoli, the 39-year-old owner of Mamma Mia's pizzeria across the street from the white-columned administration building, said he was following the scandal minute by minute online even as he worked behind his counter.
"This is sickening, this is sad," he said. "You're talking about (abuse)" over many years, "not just a few cases."
Sandusky, who was defensive coordinator for 23 years and was once considered a likely successor to Paterno, allegedly targeted boys from 1994 to 2009, a grand jury report said.
"And they call this Happy Valley," Napoli said, referring to the area's nickname.
About a half-dozen protesters gathered outside the administration building with signs including one reading, "Tonight I am ashamed of PSU."
Tyler Barnard, a junior from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania,, said in Mamma Mia that he objected to the university paying for legal counsel for Athletic Director Timothy Curley and Gary Schultz, senior vice president for finance and business.
They have been charged with failing to report the alleged crimes, and with perjury.
"I want to start a protest movement saying I don't want my tuition to pay for their screwups," Barnard said.
Alyssia Motah, 20, a food science major who was among the protesters at the administration building, said the university needed to be held accountable.
"The reason they have been so silent is in part due to this football culture that we have here," she said.
At State College, a leafy college town of about 40,000 people nestled among mountains in the center of Pennsylvania, signs are everywhere of the high-profile football program and head coach Joe Paterno, 84, the winningest coach in the top division of college sports.
Store windows are filled with school banners and posters in blue and white, the school's colors, commemorating the program's 125th anniversary. Permanent road signs around town direct traffic to in-town football games.
Despite banner newspaper headlines of the Sandusky charges, many of some 15 residents and students canvassed late on Sunday said they had never heard of him or the accusations.
"My father called this morning, he was kind of upset. But among my group of friends, there hasn't been any in-depth discussion," said Jack Dwyer, a junior majoring in civil engineering from Geneva, Illinois.
One male student at a bar said: "This is bull ... Paterno is a legendary coach." A friend chimed in, "Leave Joe Pa alone," using Paterno's nickname.
In a statement on Sunday, Paterno confirmed he had been informed of at least one of the alleged incidents, and had advised administrators of it, but said he did not know the details.
Sandusky's two-story brick home a few minutes' drive from the Lasch Football Building, where he is alleged to have assaulted one boy in 2002, was dark late on Sunday. A half-circle "welcome" sign hung in front of the house and two garden chairs sat side by side before the door.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Jerry Norton)