Ohio State works to make Penn State visit safe
COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio State is going to great lengths to make sure its fans are on their best behavior when No. 21 Penn State comes to town on Saturday.
There’s a short video on YouTube advising good sportsmanship, public messages from student leaders, notes on Twitter and Facebook, heightened security and assurances of safety from everyone from Athletic Director Gene Smith to coach Luke Fickell.
After the coin toss, players and coaches from both teams will meet at midfield and exchange handshakes in a show of sportsmanship and mutual respect.
Penn State is still reeling from revelations 10 days ago that a former assistant football coach was charged with sexual abuse of young boys. Coach Joe Paterno was fired and the university’s president and athletic director also lost their jobs amid criticism that they did not do enough to stop the alleged crimes.
With Penn State (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) visiting Ohio Stadium on Saturday to take on the Buckeyes (6-4, 3-3), many are counseling fans to be respectful to Penn State and its followers.
As Ohio State student body president Nick Messenger put it: “It’s important to remember the victims of this tragedy. But it’s also important to remember that our visitors are not the people to whom we should direct our anger.”
Several Ohio State athletes appear on a 20-second video (www.youtu.be/HEy1zdwOMaA ) that had received more than 6,000 hits by Wednesday afternoon. In it, Aaron Craft and Jared Sullinger of the third-ranked men’s basketball team and football players Mike Brewster, J.B. Shugarts, Solomon Thomas and Evan Blankenship plead for fans to show respect to Penn State’s players, coaches and fans.
Ohio State isn’t providing any details about added security for the game. But Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley was promised that he and his team would be safe when they come to Columbus.
“One of the things that coach (Fickell) wanted to assure me that every (step) would be taken for our safety and my players’ safety and we didn’t have to worry about that,” Bradley said.
Before the Nittany Lions’ final home game last week against Nebraska, the teams met at midfield for prayer before the opening kickoff.
Ben Jay, an associate athletic director at Ohio State, said extra attention would be paid to visitors on Saturday.
“We have adjusted our security plan for this Penn State game to specifically watch over and assist the Penn State football travel party from their arrival and departure in and out of Columbus,” he said in an email on Wednesday. “We have been in communication with Penn State officials this week and they have made arrangements for additional security at their team hotel. Although we would prefer not to detail what changes we have made, I can tell you that we will redirect our police coverage for their coaches, players and visiting fans to observe any potential trouble before and after the game.”
Stadium ushers have also been told to be particularly attuned to how Penn State’s fans are treated, Jay said.
It’s difficult for many, including the players, to think about a game with such upheaval and trauma in the recent past.
Fickell, who took over in the wake of Jim Tressel’s forced resignation for breaking NCAA rules, said he was confident that young people are more resilient than many think.
“Sometimes they get over it probably a lot quicker than maybe some of us older people,” Fickell said, being careful to point out that what has happened at Penn State was a tragedy that will probably never be forgotten. “They do a good job of continuing to move on. It’s not easy.”
Fellow players seem to have a better grasp than most adults of what the Nittany Lions are going through.
“You do feel for them,” Ohio State defensive end Solomon Thomas said. “You don’t wish that on anybody else. You don’t try to use that to your advantage. We’re all college athletes.”
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap .
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