WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- For the first time in 46 years, the Penn State Nittany Lions took to the football field without Joe Paterno leading the way. There are many mixed emotions from PSU students and alumni who are trying to deal with the troubling news that has tainted the legendary football program.
Every Saturday, Penn State alumni and fans gather at Break Time to watch their beloved Nittany Lions on the gridiron, but this week was different. In the wake of shocking allegations and the firing of Head Coach Joe Paterno, their joy and excitement were replaced with sadness and confusion.
"I hope we win, but that's secondary to the bigger issue of a major university, somewhere along the line, blew it and didn't act responsibly,” Penn State alumni Howard Grotsky said.
Grotsky earned a psychology degree from Penn State and graduated in 1969. He was a sophomore when Joe Paterno took over as head coach. Grotsky said although he never had the pleasure of meeting JoePa, the head coach still inspired him to be a great student and an upstanding member of society.
"We're not perfect. Penn State isn't perfect. Joe Paterno isn't perfect,” Grotsky said. “They screwed up. There were mistakes made, but it's still a great institution. I think Paterno is still a great human being. I think he's done a lot of good for a lot of people. It doesn't take away from what he has done."
While Grotsky agrees Paterno could have and should have done more to stop the alleged sexual assault, he believes the board was premature in firing Paterno. He was shocked when he first heard allegations about former coach Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy on campus but says he was more shocked when he found out that so many knew but did not do much to stop it.
"It's sad. It's very sad,” Grotsky said. “I hope it does enlighten everyone, university or not university-connected, that child sexual abuse and child abuse is something that we as a society should not tolerate. It's wrong. It's always wrong."
Grotsky said he's proud of the 10,000 students who attended the candlelight vigil in honor of the victims Friday night on Penn State's campus. He said that spirit of compassion and unity is what Penn State is all about.