Thousands of Penn State University students turned out to rally and celebrate the end of the ban imposed on the Nittany Lions as part of the fallout over the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal.
During the impromptu rally students sang and chanted the school’s cheer: “We Are Penn State.” They also chanted the name of the school’s late head coach, Joe Paterno, and “Where’s the statue?”–a reference to the removed life-sized depiction of Paterno that once stood outside of the stadium where he led the Nittany Lions to so many victories.
Police were on hand to make sure the rally didn’t get out of hand and some small cases of property damage were reported.
But the school was happy to see the end of one of the harshest punishments ever handed down by the NCAA. Still, the student-body was surprised that the NCAA let the school out of its punishment early as the ban was only half way through the originally-imposed four-year sentence.
“In light of Penn State’s responsiveness to its obligations and the many improvements it has instituted, I believe these student-athletes should have the opportunity to play in the postseason should they earn it on the field this year,” said former US Senator George Mitchell in his second annual report as Penn State’s athletics integrity monitor.
“Senator Mitchell’s report and recommendations, along with the actions taken by the NCAA today, are a recognition of the hard work of many over the past two years to make Penn State a stronger institution,” said Penn State President Eric Barron in a statement issued after the lifting of the ban.
The scandal erupted in 2011 when former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested for sexually abusing ten boys over more than a decade. During the investigation evidence also revealed that university officials were aware of the charges of abuse and didn’t act.
A series of punishments were levied on the university after the scandal came to its conclusion. The NCAA vacated 111 winning games, dropping Paterno from the all-time winningest college coach to the 12th. The school’s football team was also barred from bowl games and scholarship reductions were handed down. The school also still has to pay a $60 million fine and that is on top of the nearly $60 million it has already paid out to victims.
The NCAA has said that the scholarships will return to full force by 2015 but the 111 vacated wins will stand.
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