(UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.) — Thousands of Pennsylvania State University students rallied overnight, celebrating the end of the school’s football bowl ban instituted in the wake of a sex abuse scandal involving former coach Jerry Sandusky.
The students sang and chanted, shouting the school’s iconic cheer: “We Are Penn State.”
Police in riot gear held watch, making sure the demonstration didn’t get out of hand. Minor vandalism was reported, including a stop sign that was ripped down. Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller urged students to stay calm.
“Vandalism in the canyon will get you arrested, maybe kicked out of school and is no way to celebrate this victory,” Miller wrote on Twitter.
The rallying followed the decision by the NCAA’s Executive Committee to eliminate the school’s football postseason ban and scholarship reductions, recommendations proposed by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.
The sanctions were implemented in 2012, after an NCAA report alleged the university was negligent in not dealing with Sandusky, who was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys for more than a decade. Other victims have since emerged.
The scandal ensnared now-deceased football coach Joe Paterno, president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley, exposing flaws in the school’s culture and insufficient sexual offense reporting practices.
As a result, Mitchell was instituted as the university’s athletics integrity monitor and sanctions were levied against the school and football program.
In a report released Monday, Mitchell lauded the university’s reform efforts, while also noting that the sanctions affected student-athletes “who bear no personal responsibility for the underlying reasons for the sanctions.”
“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 post-season should they earn it on the field this year,” Mitchell wrote. “The maximum number of student-athletes ought to be given the chance both to receive a quality education and be active in sports.”
If Penn State continues its current course, Mitchell will recommend that his oversight role, scheduled to continue to 2017, should end earlier, he wrote in the report.
Penn State’s football team is 2-0 so far this season.
The school must still pay a $60 million fine, and 112 wins under Paterno – at one time recognized as college football’s winningest coach -– remain vacated.
Sandusky, 70, was sentenced to 30 to 60 years behind bars, effectively a life sentence.
The school has so far paid nearly $60 million in settlements to Sandusky’s victims.
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