Penn State fans rally behind team
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- A pep band and more than 1,000 fans bearing signs and shouting their support for Penn State football turned out Tuesday morning to greet players gathering for offseason workouts amid a cloud of uncertainty in the wake of stiff NCAA sanctions resulting from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
Starting center Matt Stankiewitch shook hands and slapped high-fives as he snaked his way through the crowd.
"It's awesome," he said. "I can't believe this many people showed up."
Fans carried signs, while others bearing inspirational quotes from Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine and Vince Lombardi were posted in the windows of the Lasch football building -- the same place Sandusky abused some of his victims.
It's Sandusky and the fallout from an internal report finding former coach Joe Paterno helped cover up the allegations that has cast a dark cloud over Penn State football, resulting in a postseason ban and lost scholarships.
But the scandal could cost Penn State current players, too -- most notably star tailback Silas Redd, who announced Tuesday that he will transfer to Southern California.
On Monday, backup safety Tim Buckley, a former walk-on, became the first player to transfer from Penn State in the wake of the sanctions after returning to his native North Carolina to play for N.C. State. Penn State also confirmed Monday that former starting quarterback Rob Bolden had left the team, though the demoted signal-caller was given the OK to consider other schools before the NCAA meted out its landmark punishments on July 23.
A handful of other players are at least considering a transfer, leaving the possibility open that Buckley's decision might lead to a chain reaction. Still, the majority of coach Bill O'Brien's core players appear to be sticking with Penn State, determined to weather out what could be a stormy season for the program.
It's the difficulty facing players that prompted two former Nittany Lions to organize the rally.
"What these guys have had to endure and overcome, nobody has ever been faced before in college football," said Tim Sweeney, a businessman who hosts an online radio show. "There aren't any better representatives of our university than our football team."
Guard John Urschel was impressed with the turnout -- all for workouts that aren't mandatory.
"I haven't seen anything like this. It's unreal," he said.
After players arrived, fans streamed to the practice field to watch them work out. Local businesses provided coffee and doughnuts.
O'Brien said at Big Ten media days last week in Chicago that more than 50 players have re-affirmed their commitment to Penn State, though he did expect some transfers. Two Class of 2013 recruits have de-committed over the last week, but six prospects visited O'Brien during the weekend before, standing by their verbal commitments.
"We have a really unique opportunity at Penn State to do something really special," one of the six recruits, Cedar Cliff High senior Adam Breneman, said in a phone interview. Breneman, of Camp Hill, Pa., is considered one of the top tight end prospects in the country.
"We have a chance to bring a community together. We have a chance to be remembered for a long time and give a community hope."
Members of the football alumni group also plan to speak with players at a team meeting later Tuesday. Sweeney said he hopes hundreds of lettermen attend the meeting that O'Brien asked they attend.
Penn State spokesman Jeff Nelson said any plans by players to transfer would come from the players themselves or his new school, not Penn State.
It's unclear if Bolden has settled on a new school. He was the starting quarterback to open the last two seasons before losing the job to Matt McGloin each year. There appears to be an interest from LSU in Bolden.
This spring, McGloin was tabbed the outright starter by O'Brien, while Bolden was demoted to the third team.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.