State College

Senior setter Hannah Allison and the Longhorn volleyball team hold a 1-8 record against rival No. 1 Penn State, which will travel to Austin this weekend for the Big Four Volleyball Classic.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

This weekend Texas will write another chapter in what is perhaps its most competitive rivalry, but the game won’t be against Oklahoma.

The No. 6 Longhorns (2-1) will host No. 1 Penn State (2-0) as a part of the Nike Volleyball Big Four Classic after taking two of three matches in Hawaii to start their season. Texas holds a 1-8 record against Penn State, including a loss in the 2009 National Championship, where the Longhorns won two sets but fell to a furious Nittany Lions rally. But after the Longhorns won a title of their own last season, the rivalry has reached an even greater magnitude.

“I would say there’s a rivalry, but it’s not really a hated rivalry. It’s more of a respectful rivalry,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “When you have programs that respect each other and they know what it’s all about, it’s always kind of a measuring stick for both teams to see how you go about the business.”

The Longhorns faced Penn State last season when the Nittany Lions swept Texas at State College, Pa. Now the rivalry moves to Gregory Gym — Texas is 96-4 since 2007 at home — where the results may be different.   

“It’s awesome playing here, especially when Gregory is full, and I just think our crowd really helps us and gives us momentum a lot,” sophomore Amy Neal said. “It’s going to be really competitive as always, but now it’s here so it’ll be a whole different story.”

Texas seems to take strides every season, but Penn State does the same. The team knows the path to the national championship will go through the Nittany Lions.

“Penn State will always be in the mix,” Elliott said. “I think it’s the tradition, when you win that much, it makes the best players want to go there.”

Although Texas lost its No. 1 ranking last weekend, the team showed resiliency and unparalleled talent in all three games. All-American outside hitter Haley Eckerman notched a team-high 28 kills while freshman Pilar Victoria added 25 of her own to lead the Longhorns.

“We didn’t go in expecting to win everything but we learned a lot about our team [in the loss],” Neal said. “We learned we have a lot of improvement to do which is a good thing because we know we can get a lot better.”

While players like Khat Bell and Neal have experienced the Penn State rivalry on numerous occasions, new faces like Victoria are eager to feel the intensity of such a high level of volleyball.  

“I’m very excited because this is going to be my first match here in Gregory Gym,” Victoria said. “The game is a lot faster here than at the international level. I’m really excited to play against Penn State, and I’m a little nervous, but that’s normal.”

Penn State holds five national championships in school history, including four straight from 2007-2010. With a win, Texas will make a statement: It’s ready to start a dynasty of its own.

In addition to the game against Penn State, Texas will host another powerhouse, No. 2 Stanford. There is plenty of experience to be gained, and this matchup with the best teams will test the defending champions.

“Obviously we’d like to go in and win these matches and that’s the priority right now, but we’re learning so much about our team,” Elliott said. “That’s the important thing I’m taking away from this, trying to get our team ready for the Big 12 and get back to the Final Four.”

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Kicker-punter Anthony Fera has left Penn State, the second starter to depart Happy Valley this week following harsh NCAA sanctions against the program for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

A team spokesman said Thursday that Fera was no longer on the roster. The junior with the powerful right leg was one of the top specialists in the Big Ten after hitting 14 of 17 field-goal tries and averaging 42 yards a punt last season.

Incoming freshman defensive lineman Jamil Pollard, who had yet to play for coach Bill O’Brien, is also no longer with the squad, the team confirmed Thursday. Six players have now left the program this week in the wake of the NCAA penalties including a four-year postseason ban and significant scholarship reductions.

Fera, from Cypress, Texas, is the second starter to go. He was reportedly interested in returning to his home state to play for Texas, and a Longhorns spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

The biggest loss at Penn State is 1,200-yard rusher Silas Redd, who departed this week for Southern California. O’Brien, the former coordinator of the New England Patriots’ high-scoring offense, will have to reshape Penn State’s attack without its best offensive player.

Top backup linebacker Khairi Fortt, is another key departure after transferring to another Pac-12 destination, California.

A seventh player, backup quarterback Rob Bolden, was removed from the roster this week but was given his release before the NCAA sanctions.

Bolden, who has since transferred to LSU, began the previous two seasons as the starter before losing the job by the end of each year. O’Brien demoted Bolden to third-string this spring.

In light of the unprecedented sanctions, the NCAA is allowing Nittany Lion players to seek new schools and play immediately. Most players considering a transfer are trying to make a decision before their new schools start fall practice.

O’Brien had said last week that more than 50 players had re-affirmed their commitments to Penn State. The starting defense is expected to remain intact.

The Nittany Lions could finally reach some roster stability Monday, when they start preseason practice.

Texas football coach Mack Brown, left, greets Joe Paterno in May 2008 when Paterno was the keynote speaker at a Texas event where Brown was presented with The Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs. Paterno was 3-2 against UT but never faced Brown.

Photo Credit: Texas Sports

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Happy Valley was perfect for Joe Paterno, a place where "JoePa" knew best, where he not only won more football games than any other major college coach, but won them the right way: with integrity and sportsmanship. A place where character came first, championships second.

Behind it all, however, was an ugly secret that ran counter to everything the revered coach stood for.

Paterno, a sainted figure at Penn State for almost half a century but scarred forever by the child sex abuse scandal that brought his career to a stunning end, died Sunday at age 85.

His death came just over two months after his son Scott announced on Nov. 18 that his father had been diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer. The cancer was found during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness. A few weeks later, Paterno broke his pelvis after a fall but did not need surgery.

Paterno had been in the hospital since Jan. 13 for observation after what his family called minor complications from his cancer treatments. Not long before that, he conducted his only interview since losing his job, with The Washington Post. Paterno was described as frail then, speaking mostly in a whisper and wearing a wig. The second half of the two-day interview was conducted at his bedside.

His family released a statement Sunday morning to announce his death: "His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled."

"He died as he lived," the statement said. "He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community."

Paterno built a program based on the credo of "Success with Honor," and he found both. The man known as "JoePa" won 409 games and took the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games and two national championships. More than 250 of the players he coached went on to the NFL.

"He will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said after his former team, the Florida Gators, beat Penn State 37-24 in the 2011 Outback Bowl.

Paterno roamed the sidelines for 46 seasons, his thick-rimmed glasses, windbreaker and jet-black sneakers as familiar as the Nittany Lions' blue and white uniforms. He won 409 games and two national championships.

The reputation he built looked even more impressive because he insisted on keeping graduation rates high while maintaining on-field success.

But in the middle of his 46th season, the legend was shattered. Paterno was engulfed in a child sex abuse scandal when a former trusted assistant, Jerry Sandusky, was accused of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year span, sometimes in the football building.

Paterno at first said he was fooled. But outrage built quickly when the state's top cop said the coach hadn't fulfilled a moral obligation to go to the authorities when a graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, told Paterno he saw Sandusky with a young boy in the showers of the football complex in 2002.

At a preliminary hearing for the school officials, McQueary testified that he had seen Sandusky attacking the child with his hands around the boy's waist but said he wasn't 100 percent sure it was intercourse. McQueary described Paterno as shocked and saddened and said the coach told him he'd "done the right thing" by reporting the encounter.

Paterno waited a day before alerting school officials but never went to the police.

"I didn't know which way to go ... and rather than get in there and make a mistake," Paterno said in the Post interview.

"You know, (McQueary) didn't want to get specific," Paterno said. "And to be frank with you I don't know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it."

When the scandal erupted in November, Paterno said he would retire following the 2011 season. He also said he was "absolutely devastated" by the abuse case.

"This is a tragedy," he said. "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

But the university trustees faced a crisis, and in an emergency meeting that night, they fired Paterno, effective immediately. Graham Spanier, one of the longest-serving university presidents in the nation, also was fired.

Paterno was notified by phone, not in person, a decision that board vice chairman John Surma later regretted, according to Lanny Davis, an attorney retained by the trustees as an adviser.

The university handed the football team to one of Paterno's assistants, Tom Bradley, who said Paterno "will go down in history as one of the greatest men, who maybe most of you know as a great football coach."

"As the last 61 years have shown, Joe made an incredible impact," said the statement from the family. "That impact has been felt and appreciated by our family in the form of thousands of letters and well wishes along with countless acts of kindness from people whose lives he touched. It is evident also in the thousands of successful student athletes who have gone on to multiply that impact as they spread out across the country."

Paterno believed success was not measured entirely on the field. From his idealistic early days, he had implemented what he called a "grand experiment" — to graduate more players while maintaining success on the field.

He was a frequent speaker on ethics in sports, a conscience for a world often infiltrated by scandal and shady characters.

The team consistently ranked among the best in the Big Ten for graduating players. As of 2011, it had 49 academic All-Americans, the third-highest among schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision. All but two played under Paterno.

"He teaches us about really just growing up and being a man," former linebacker Paul Posluszny, now with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, once said. "Besides the football, he's preparing us to be good men in life."

Paterno certainly had detractors. One former Penn State professor called his high-minded words on academics a farce, and a former administrator said players often got special treatment. His coaching style often was considered too conservative. Some thought he held on to his job too long, and a move to push him out in 2004 failed.

But the critics were in the minority, and his program was never cited for major NCAA violations. The child sex abuse scandal, however, did prompt separate investigations by the U.S. Department of Education and the NCAA into the school's handling.

Paterno played quarterback and cornerback for Brown University and set a defensive record with 14 career interceptions, a distinction he still boasted about to his teams in his 80s. He graduated in 1950 with plans to go to law school. He said his father hoped he would someday be president.

But when Paterno was 23, a former coach at Brown was moving to Penn State to become the head coach and persuaded Paterno to come with him as an assistant.

"I had no intention to coach when I got out of Brown," Paterno said in 2007 in an interview at Penn State's Beaver Stadium before being inducted into college football's Hall of Fame. "Come to this hick town? From Brooklyn?"

In 1963, he was offered a job by the late Al Davis — $18,000, triple his salary at Penn State, plus a car to become general manager and coach of the AFL's Oakland Raiders. He said no. Rip Engle retired as Penn State head coach three years later, and Paterno took over.

At the time, the Lions were considered "Eastern football" — inferior — and Paterno courted newspaper coverage to raise the team's profile. In 1967, PSU began a 30-0-1 streak.

But Penn State couldn't get to the top of the polls. The Lions finished second in 1968 and 1969 despite perfect seasons. They were undefeated and untied again in 1973 at 12-0 again but finished fifth. Texas edged them in 1969 after President Richard Nixon, impressed with the Longhorns' bowl performance, declared them No. 1.

"I'd like to know," Paterno said later, "how could the president know so little about Watergate in 1973, and so much about college football in 1969?"

A national title finally came in 1982, after a 27-23 win over Georgia at the Sugar Bowl. Another followed in 1986 after the Lions picked off Vinny Testaverde five times and beat Miami 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl.

They made several title runs after that, including a 2005 run to the Orange Bowl and an 11-1 season in 2008 that ended in a 37-23 loss to Southern California in the Rose Bowl.

In his later years, physical ailments wore the old coach down.

Paterno was run over on the sideline during a game at Wisconsin in November 2006 and underwent knee surgery. He hurt his hip in 2008 demonstrating an onside kick. An intestinal illness and a bad reaction to antibiotics prescribed for dental work slowed him for most of the 2010 season. He began scaling back his speaking engagements that year, ending his summer caravan of speeches to alumni across the state.

Then a receiver bowled over Paterno at practice in August, sending him to the hospital with shoulder and pelvis injuries and consigning him to coach much of what would be his last season from the press box.

"The fact that we've won a lot of games is that the good Lord kept me healthy, not because I'm better than anybody else," Paterno said two days before he won his 409th game and passed Eddie Robinson of Grambling State for the most in Division I. "It's because I've been around a lot longer than anybody else."

Paterno could be conservative on the field, especially in big games, relying on the tried-and-true formula of defense, the running game and field position.

"They've been playing great defense for 45 years," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said in November.

Paterno and his wife, Sue, raised five children in State College. Anybody could telephone him at his modest ranch home — the same one he appeared in front of on the night he was fired — by looking up "Paterno, Joseph V." in the phone book.

He walked to home games and was greeted and wished good luck by fans on the street. Former players paraded through his living room for the chance to say hello. But for the most part, he stayed out of the spotlight.

Paterno did have a knack for jokes. He referred to Twitter, the social media site, as "Twittle-do, Twittle-dee."

He also could be abrasive and stubborn, and he had his share of run-ins with his bosses or administrators. And as his legend grew, so did the attention to his on-field decisions, and the questions about when he would hang it up.

Calls for his retirement reached a crescendo in 2004. The next year, Penn State went 11-1 and won the Big Ten. In the Orange Bowl, PSU beat Florida State, whose coach, Bobby Bowden, was eased out after the 2009 season after 34 years and 389 wins.

Like many others, he was outlasted by "JoePa."

Joe Paterno, legendary head football coach of Penn State’s Nittany Lions, announced Wednesday that he would retire at the end of the season amid a child abuse scandal that has rocked State College and captivated the country.

“The Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status,” the coach said in a statement, “I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.”

Paterno — who declined to notify police after being told that his friend, former defensive coordinator and heir-apparent Jerry Sandusky raped a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State football facilities — believed that continuing to serve as the face of the university for five more Saturday’s after facilitating the most devastating cover-up in sports history was somehow an appropriate response.

Wednesday evening, Penn State’s Board of Trustees declined Paterno’s bizarre offer to finish the season and fired him along with the university’s president, Graham Spanier.

Paterno, until a week ago the most beloved coach in college athletics, preached integrity, honor and selflessness to his student-athletes for more than 40 years. After failing to protect an unknown number of young children from rape at the hands of his close friend in the football facilities where he ruled supreme, a quiet and immediate resignation seemed like a low hurdle and an opportunity to end his tenure with a scintilla of dignity.

Instead, Paterno fumbled the opportunity to impart on his students a final lesson: Even in the face of great personal failure and disappointment it is possible to act with integrity and to take responsibility for one’s mistakes. It is an unfitting end for a once-great teacher and coach.

Michael Vitris
Third-year UT law student

The year was 1994, and Penn State had just beaten arch-rival Michigan, en route to its perfect football season. I was 3 years old as my dad hoisted me on his shoulder so I could see the team returning from Ann Arbor.

Seventeen years later, in the wake of one of the biggest scandals in NCAA history, Joe Paterno, the longest-tenured and most winningest coach in D-I college football, was fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees late Wednesday night.

My parents will have to correct me on this, but by the time I was 3, there were four non-Sesame Street people I could name if they appeared on television. One of them was Paterno, and he was the only one that mattered.

I was born in State College, Pa. to two foreign engineering graduate students who quickly learned to embrace the football fever that defines the small college town — even if huddling with 100,000 Nittany Lion faithfuls at Beaver Stadium in November will also get you a different kind of fever.

Over the weekend, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office filed criminal charges against Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coordinator, for 40 counts of sexual abuse of children with nine different victims. A sickening, 23-page grand jury investigation alleges that Sandusky would bring boys from a program for troubled youth through the Penn State facilities. In one particular incident in 2002, Sandusky was caught performing anal sex on a 10-year-old boy in the facility by a graduate assistant, who informed Paterno, who then reported the incident to Penn State’s athletic director, Tim Curley. The issue was never brought to the authorities.

Curley and Gary Schultz, the university’s senior vice president for finance and business, have also been charged for failing to report the sexual assault to authorities and for lying to the grand jury about the incident. Additionally, the trustees decided to oust Penn State President Graham Spanier for approving Curley’s handling of the affair in 2002.

This is where Paterno comes in. He reported the incident to Curley, therefore absolving himself from legal fault. But how one of the most highly revered public figures in the country failed to notify the authorities or even follow up on the incident as Sandusky popped in and out of the university’s facilities for the next nine years is what has shattered the previously unshatterable and questioned the previously unquestionable.

College athletics is a compliance-based industry; Officials aren’t paid for doing what is right but rather paid for doing what is not wrong. And as a society, we tend to ride along, shifting our frame of reference from the moral to the legal.

But every once in a while, an inhumane, stomach-turning incident such as this one can re-shift that focus. Paterno made a conscious decision to aim higher than the illegal but not higher than the immoral.

This is what crushes people.

Paterno’s reputation was never solely based on a winning percentage. It was how he weaved character and academics through the seams of the navy blue-and-white fabric and always seemed to be the one teaching and inspiring other coaches to do the same.

It took 46 years to create one of the most respected and recognizable brands in the country, and certain individuals deemed it too risky to derail it, especially considering the fickle nature of our perception-based higher education system.

The institutional similarities of Penn State and Texas are many, ranging from similar undergraduate enrollment numbers to a large football stadium and from similar U.S. News and World Report rankings to similar Playboy’s Party School rankings. Penn State’s arena is called the Bryce Jordan Center, named after a Penn State president who is also a former UT president.

But to ask, “What if this happened at Texas?” does a disservice to the comparison. “JoePa” and the Nittany Lions aren’t part of the town’s identity — it is the identity.

It has the kind of power that can win over two foreign graduate engineering students with no background in football.

I think back to the hazy memory of 3-year-old me as part of the crowd ready to give a hero’s welcome to the victorious team. I don’t remember if Paterno made a speech that night. I just picture the legend who, no matter how much older I got, seemed to stay the same, pacing the sidelines with his navy blue jacket and long out-of-style glasses. And now, all I’m left saying is:

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Say it ain’t so.