County's football community reacts to NCAA's sanctions against Penn State

Tuesday July 24, 2012

Gary Campbell Jr. is back in Berkshire County, but he can't forget his time coaching high school football in Pennsylvania.

That might be why the former and current Wahconah Regional football coach is conflicted about Monday's NCAA decision regarding Penn State University and its football program.

"I feel awful for them. I was all in with Penn State. I believed it," Campbell said. "Now it creates doubt on everything."

Penn State didn't receive the so-called death penalty on Monday, but the NCAA handed down severe penalties to the university in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child-sex scandal.

Penn State will pay a $60 million fine, be banned from all postseason football for four years, and will lose 10 football scholarships a year for four years. The Big Ten Conference also said Penn State won't be allowed to share in bowl revenues during its postseason ban. That's an estimated loss of $13 million.

Additionally, the NCAA erased 14 seasons of victories at Penn State, taking 111 of former head coach Joe Paterno's victories out of the record books. Paterno, who died last winter, was stripped of his standing as the winningest coach in Division I history.

The punishment follows the release of the Freeh Report, which criticized the university's most powerful men, including Paterno, for keeping quiet while Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant coach, molested boys -- many on the school's campus.

Campbell, who coached at Pennsylvania's Berwick High School for six seasons, said he never met Paterno. He dealt with assistant Dick Anderson during Paterno's time and was dealing with assistant Mac McWhorter under new coach Bill O'Brien.

Campbell said his emotions are running the gamut.

"Absolute sadness, absolute shame, absolute [being] let down and in a fog," he said. "I think the anger [toward Penn State] comes from the outside. When you walk down the streets of Berwick, you see the flags saying ‘We are Penn State.'

"It's not only the geographical center for the state -- it is the center of the universe for the state."

Elsewhere in the Berkshire football community, Williams College coach Aaron Kelton said the sanctions were tough.

"For me, the penalties were severe and will impact college football on every level from the BCS schools to Division III programs," Kelton said, adding that the NCAA ruling will change how he and other coaches keep tabs on their programs.

"It does force you to keep your hand on things quite closely and evaluate all scenarios in a thorough way," he said.

Campbell said that, despite the sanctions, O'Brien should be able to recruit those who always wanted to play at Penn State. It's the quality player who the Lions probably will have trouble with.

"I think that Bill will be fine this year," Kelton said. "They've been working all summer. That senior class will pull together.

"The thing is, two years from now, when and if they have an exodus because of the bowl ban, then the numbers are going to be down. The game is all about numbers."

Pittsfield High School assistant football coach Joe Albano once coached football in the shadow of Penn State. Albano spent six years as the head coach at Sutland (Md.) High School.

Maryland is within the main recruiting footprint for the Nittany Lions.

"Joe Paterno, he had to know, and not say anything from the beginning -- that's sad," Albano said. "He knew, in my opinion."

Dalton's Hunter Crine, a multisport athlete at Wahconah, is beginning his sophomore year at Penn State. An athletic training major, Crine said he was in "shock" when he heard the news Monday morning.

Crine, who has friends on the football team, said he didn't think they would leave the program.

"It's hard to leave when you have your roots and all your friends are there," Crine said. "You're going to [go] where you don't have anybody?"

While the focus has been on football, Crine was asked if he was concerned that his Penn State ties might impact him after graduation.

"It was my choice to go there. Penn State is No. 2 for job placement in the nation," he said, citing Forbes Magazine. "It's crazy how a sick human being can affect me. It's one of those things you have to face. That's something I can't even explain the feeling of."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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