Christman Blog: Controversial T-Shirts at the Student Book Store

Okay, so it’s no secret that some people are upset with the NCAA for the sanctions handed down to Penn State University for its handling (or lack thereof) of the the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal. Some think the NCAA overreached in fining the school $60 million, taking away scholarships, banning the Nittany Lions from bowl games for 4 years and vacating all the team’s wins from 1998 through 2011, among other penalties.

Now, those angry at the NCAA can take part in a time-honored facet of free speech: the snarky t-shirt.

Thursday was Media Day at Penn State, and after getting my interviews with new Coach Bill O’Brien and this year’s players, I headed downtown to visit the Student Book Store on East College Avenue. There, hanging amongst the other PSU apparel and various tchotchkes, was a blue t-shirt with bright white lettering. NCAA, it reads…except the “C” is a Soviet-era hammer and sickle.



Yeah, some people are really mad.

The shirt itself is not licensed by Penn State, and since it doesn’t mention the words “Penn State” or “Nittany Lions,” there’s not much the university can do about it. Additionally, the Student Book Store is an independent entity. They can display and sell whatever they wish. That being said, I do wonder what will happen the first time Penn State President Rodney Erickson sees a student walking around campus in this shirt, which sells for 15.99-17.99. The shirt was still available for sale on the Student Book Store’s website as of Friday morning.

The back of the shirt elaborates on the anti-NCAA sentiment: “OVERSTEPPING THEIR BOUNDS AND PUNISHING THE INNOCENT SINCE 1906.”

To be clear, I don’t think anyone who wears this t-shirt believes that any of the principle players named in the Freeh Report are necessarily “innocent.” Rather, I conclude that the reference is to the fans and the players remaining on the Nittany Lions roster, who will have to fight major uphill battles to enjoy even a modicum of success on the field in the coming years, given the harsh sanctions the school will endure.

Still, one critical question needs to be asked: is this the message PSU fans want to put out there right now…or ever?

The graphic on the shirt includes the website, which takes you to a business known as Smack Apparel. Their website features various other sports-related shirts with similar cutting or biting sarcasm (some are more clever than others). It strikes me as a company that knows how to make a quick buck when a controversy surfaces.

If I may, one piece of free advice for anyone who buys this shirt: DON’T wear it to Penn State games this fall. This is exactly the kind of thing ESPN’s cameras will be looking for in and around the stadium. Don’t make it easy for them. Take the high road and realize that humility is more appropriate now than defiant anger. Coach Bill O’Brien and every player I spoke to on Thursday showed me that the team is moving forward with grace and humility. All of Penn State country should follow their example.


(Brad Christman is the News Director for Radio Pennsylvania, a statewide service providing news and sports programming to radio stations across the Commonwealth)

Governor Tom Corbett Addresses Public Perceptions in the Sandusky Case

Making perhaps his most extensive comments on the record to date, Governor Tom Corbett today addressed numerous issues involving the perception that he in any way delayed the Jerry Sandusky investigation for political reasons.

Sandusky is currently awaiting sentencing after being convicted on 45 counts of the sexual abuse of young boys. The former Penn State football defensive coordinator’s fall from grace has dominated the headlines for 10 months, including speculation that Tom Corbett’s run for governor in 2010 (while he was Attorney General) tempted him to delay the investigation until after the election.

Appearing on Radio PA’s Ask the Governor program, Corbett answered direct questions about the perceived controversy and the timeline of events, including his two stints as Attorney General of Pennsylvania (1995-97 and 2005-2011). The governor flatly denied allowing politics of any kind to interfere with his office’s prosecution of Sandusky, calling the notion “insulting.” The governor states that it took time to build the case, which started in 2008 and continued with the announcement of charges in November of 2011, but he says there were no politically-motivated delays during that process. Corbett says there were concerns about the first case of alleged abuse. “We believed that we did not have a case that we could get a conviction on,” referring to the first report to hit his desk. “And what we did is we kept digging and digging and digging.”

Upon taking the office of governor, Corbett handed the case off to newly-appointed Attorney General Linda Kelly, who would eventually announce the charges involving at least 10 victims last November.

Corbett says he was not given any indication of Sandusky’s illicit activities either during his first stint as AG, or when he took office again in 2005. Some have blamed the governor for the lack of a prosecution associated with two now-well known incidents involving Sandusky in 1998 and 2001, a time period when Tom Corbett was in private practice and not holding public office. Corbett addressed two such listener emails during his Ask the Governor appearance.

The governor bristles at the notion that he would have allowed children to be at risk over politics, pointing to his record as a prosecutor. “Nobody has, in my knowledge in state government, done more to protect the children of Pennsylvania in the last 20 years than I have,” Corbett said. The governor points to his successful online predators unit, a program that has served as a model for other states attempting to crack down on internet predators. The effort has resulted in hundreds of arrests and continues to this day.

Video clips of the governor’s comments will be available on

Jerry Sandusky is scheduled to be sentenced next month in Centre County.


Staggering NCAA Sanctions Against Penn State University

Twelve months ago, Joe Paterno was prepping for his 46th season and leading one of the most respected college football programs in the country.

What a difference a year makes.

On Sunday, Paterno’s statue outside Beaver Stadium was dismantled and today NCAA President Mark Emmert dismantled his record, vacating 111 victories from 1998 through 2011. Additional sanctions against Penn State are staggering. They include:

-A $60 million fine (to go into a special fund to aid programs for victims of child sex abuse)

-No bowl games for 4 years

-A reduction in scholarships for 4 years

-A 5-year probation


The vacating of victories means Paterno’s win total drops from a record 409 to 298. The NCAA will allow current Penn State  players and recruits to transfer to another school without penalty.

Emmert says the so-called “death penalty,” whereby the football program would have been suspended for a year or more, was considered, but the NCAA felt that would punish too many people who had nothing to do with the Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

Meanwhile, Jerry Sandusky sits in prison awaiting his formal sentencing in September for the sexual abuse of young boys.


Additional penalties from the Big Ten Conference were expected today and the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors issued a statement that included the following language:

Today, we have read the NCAA release on Penn State University.  We note in the release, and have independently confirmed, that Penn State has accepted the factual findings in the July 12, 2012 Report of the Special Investigative Counsel prepared by Louis Freeh and his firm (the Freeh Report).  Based on the findings, as accepted by Penn State, we fully support the actions taken by the NCAA.  Further, following a thorough review of the Freeh Report, the COPC has voted to impose the following additional sanctions on Penn State, effective immediately:

 1.       Censure:  The accepted findings support the conclusion that our colleagues at Penn State, individuals that we have known and with whom we have worked for many years, have egregiously failed on many levels-morally, ethically and potentially criminally.  They have failed their great university, their faculty and staff, their students and alumni, their community and state-and they have failed their fellow member institutions in the Big Ten Conference.  For these failures, committed at the highest level of the institution, we hereby condemn this conduct and officially censure Penn State.

 2.       Probation:  The Big Ten Conference will be a party to the Athletic Integrity Agreement referenced in the NCAA release, and will work closely with the NCAA and Penn State to ensure complete compliance with its provisions over the 5 year term of the Agreement.

 3.       Ineligibility:  As referenced in the NCAA release, Penn State’s football team will be ineligible for postseason bowl games.  It will also be ineligible for Big Ten Conference Championship Games for four years, a period of time that runs concurrently with the NCAA postseason bowl ban imposed this morning.

 4.       Fine:  Because Penn State will be ineligible for bowl games for the next four years, it will therefore be ineligible to receive its share of Big Ten Conference bowl revenues over those same four years.  That money, estimated to be approximately $13 million, will be donated to established charitable organizations in Big Ten communities dedicated to the protection of children.

 Penn State University is a great institution and has been a valued member of the Big Ten Conference for more than 20 years.  Since early November 2011, it has been working very hard to right a terrible wrong.   There is more to be done.  The intent of the sanctions imposed today is not to destroy a great university, but rather to seek justice and constructively assist a member institution with its efforts to reform.  From this day forward, as Penn State continues to make amends, the Big Ten conference and its member institutions will continue to engage with them in every aspect of conference membership.


Paterno Statue Removed; NCAA to Sanction Penn State University

Today is the day Penn State University learns of its fate from the NCAA. In the wake of the Sandusky scandal and the Freeh Report – which detailed a cover-up involving former school President Graham Spanier and former Head Coach Joe Paterno, among others – the school will learn this morning what sanctions it will face in the coming years. Possible penalties include the loss of scholarships, bowl games and television appearances.

NCAA President Mark Emmert is scheduled to make the announcement in Indianapolis at 9:00am (ET). Reports indicate that the so-called “death penalty,” which would suspend the entire football program, will not be imposed but the sanctions will be among the harshest ever handed down by the NCAA.

On Sunday, the centerpiece of the Paterno legacy was gone, as a crew removed the statue of the former coach outside Beaver Stadium. That decision was made by university President Rodney Erickson, who said in a statement that the statue had become a “source of division” and an “obstacle to healing.” Erickson said Joe and Sue Paterno’s names will remain on the library they helped to build.

Meanwhile, Jerry Sandusky awaits sentencing in September for his convictions on 45 counts involving the sexual abuse of young boys. Former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former university Vice-President Gary Schultz are awaiting trial on charges they failed to report the abuse allegations.


Corbett Disappointed in Former PSU Leaders

Governor Tom Corbett took questions from the media for about 20-minutes on Thursday, and almost every one of them was focused on the Jerry Sandusky scandal and its continued fallout at Penn State.  Corbett calls it clear that there was evidence not initially provided by then-PSU officials when it was subpoenaed by the attorney general’s office.

Gov. Corbett answers reporters’ questions on Thursday.

“I am very disappointed in the lack of forthcoming evidence to the subpoena that was given to them by the attorney general’s office,” Corbett says.  “The prior administration, they made decisions as to how they would deliver, and what they would deliver.  I’m sure that is the subject of much discussion on the 16th floor of Strawberry Square.”  As folks in Harrisburg know, the 16th floor of Strawberry Square is where you can find the attorney general.

Corbett did not comment specifically on the prospect of additional charges being filed, telling reporters that his personal opinions are not as important as the conclusions reached by Attorney General Linda Kelly.

The governor was also very careful to direct his criticism at the former leaders of Penn State, not at the university as a whole.  He believes that some media reports are affecting the reputations of many who had nothing to do with the scandal.  “The university is a wonderful, world-class research institution, world-class university as far as I’m concerned,” says Corbett.  “Rather than trying to knock it down as an organization, we ought to be building it up.”

Corbett says he’s read about 2/3 of the ‘Freeh report’ so far, and he plans to talk about it with the Penn State Board of Trustees before he discusses it with the news media.  He believes the entire incident will be judged by people from different perspectives for decades to come.

Joe Paterno Memorabilia Still a Hot Item at Centre County Arts Festival

It was another rough week for Centre County, but it ended with a celebration of the arts. With music and food in the backdrop, more than 100 artisans displayed their wares at the People’s Choice Festival in Boalsburg over the weekend. The annual event near State College drew a large crowd, with many people still proudly wearing Penn State shirts, hats and other items just days after the Freeh Report cast a shadow on the legacy of former Coach Joe Paterno.

Joe Paterno memorabilia continues to be a top seller for Harrisburg-based “The Stadium Store”

Vendors displayed and sold handmade clothing, jewelry, pottery, furniture, artwork and numerous other items. Among the artist vendors at the festival were Jacob and Betsy Eisenhour of Harrisburg-based “The Stadium Store.” Items for sale in the Eisenhours’ tent included a large number of framed Paterno-themed works, which were predominantly displayed. The mother and son duo says Paterno items continue to be among their top sellers, and people who stopped by their festival tent this weekend have been “as supportive as ever” of the once-revered head coach. Betsy says she saw many emotional reactions to her son’s Paterno artwork this weekend, with some visitors crying and one woman kissing a picture of Paterno while saying “I love you, Joe.” Eisenhour also doesn’t shy away from her own continued support of Paterno and his legacy. She says she hopes that Paterno’s statue remains in its place outside Beaver Stadium. She visited the statue for the first time this past weekend.    The Jerry Sandusky scandal and the ensuing fallout at Penn State hit home for Jacob Eisenhour. In addition to being lined up to design what would have been Joe Paterno’s commemorative retirement coin, the talented artist had also been previously commissioned to produce original program cover art for The Second Mile’s retirement dinner for Jerry Sandusky. He says he met Sandusky multiple times but never suspected the horrific life the former defensive coordinator was leading in private. Eisenhour says he’s saddened that Paterno is now being “more villainized than Jerry Sandusky.”

Last week, former FBI Director Louis Freeh released the results of his 8-month independent internal investigation of Penn State University’s role in the Sandusky sex scandal. The scathing 267-page report linked Joe Paterno to attempts to cover up Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children in 2001. The former head coach died in January at age 85 before he could be interviewed by Freeh’s team. Former university President Graham Spanier was also criticized in the report, along with former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Vice-President Gary Schultz, both of whom are facing criminal charges for what prosecutors say was their failure to report Sandusky to authorities. Spanier has yet to be charged.

Jerry Sandusky is awaiting sentencing for his convictions on 45 counts of molesting young boys, most of whom he met through his Second Mile charity foundation. The former defensive coordinator was convicted in June and is scheduled to be sentenced in September.