Given the child-sex abuse charges facing Jerry Sandusky and the controversy that’s erupted over how Penn State handled — or mishandled — the situation, it’s very easy to forget that the Nittany Lions are in the thick of the hunt for a spot in the inaugural Big Ten title game. In fact, if Penn State wins out, they will represent the Leaders division in early December.
As hard as it is given the scandal that’s blanketed Happy Valley, interim head coach Tom Bradley is attempting to focus on what matters most to the players who had nothing to do with what’s going on off the field: this weekend’s game in Columbus.
“It’s still Ohio State-Penn State,” Bradley said during what had been Joe Paterno‘s weekly meeting with the media. “I just want to emphasize, this is all about the players. It’s all about their team and all about our team … It’s going to be an exciting game, we’re both fighting for the title so there’s a lot of on the line. It will be very spirited matchup regardless of what’s going on outside.”
Of course, there was no avoiding everything else going on in and around the football program.
Sandusky, as you’ve no doubt heard or seen by now, conducted his first extensive interview since being arrested and charged with 40 counts relating to the sexual abuse of children. Bradley was asked if he watched his former coaching contemporary further indict himself on national television.
“I’m not going to go there. I was watching Ohio State last night and I’ve got more important things right now,” Bradley said, also declining to answer questions about his past relationship with the alleged pedophile.
Bradley was also asked about his relationship with Paterno, who was fired six days ago in the midst of the controversy. Bradley, who had been a member of Paterno’s staff for more than three decades, said he has not seen JoePa since the firing, and has only had one phone conversation since the board announced their decision last Wednesday. And, apparently, that’s the way the coaching legend wants it.
“If I called him today, he’s going to ask me why I’m calling,” Bradley said. “He knows the importance of this. He’s been through this. … He knows the responsibility we have to Penn State, the players, the parents, their high school coaches. We made a commitment and we’re going to follow through with that.
“As I told the players, the expectations are the expectation. They have not changed. They know the ramifications of the way we’re heading here and the way we do things. I made it clear, if you step out of line I am going to come down fast and hard … They all know that.”
Bradley also hit on other issues, including…
— The future of assistant coach Mike McQueary, now on administrative leave: “I can’t answer that question due to what’s going on with the university and the ongoing investigation and things.”
— Any safety concerns he may have taking his football team into another city this weekend: “No, not at all. We’ve been contacted by Ohio State. I talked to Luke Fickell, [he] called me the other day; we’ve been assured there will be no problems.
— Any talk of Penn State not going to a bowl game: “That’s never come up. I talked to [interim PSU president] Dr. [Rodney] Erickson, he’s talked to [Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney.] We have been assured that is not the case for the bowl game.”