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Shame of sex-abuse scandal will cost Penn State for years, observers say

Penn State President Rodney Erickson listens to a question from a reporter after their 17-14 loss to Nebraska in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, in State College, Pa. Penn State played for the first time in decades without former head coach Joe Paterno, after he was fired in the wake of a child sex abuse scandal involving a former assistant coach. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) PAGP138

Associated Press

Penn State President Rodney Erickson listens to a question from a reporter after their 17-14 loss to Nebraska in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, in State College, Pa. Penn State played for the first time in decades without former head coach Joe Paterno, after he was fired in the wake of a child sex abuse scandal involving a former assistant coach. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) PAGP138

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Dozens of Penn State students locked arms on the campus this week to intone the school's Alma Mater.

"May no act of ours bring shame to one heart that loves thy name," they sang.

Penn State will struggle for years with the shame of the child sex-abuse scandal that ended the careers of football coach Joe Paterno and president Graham B. Spanier, according to students, alumni, college counselors and academic officials inside and outside the university.

The allegations and continuing investigations will likely hurt donations and the recruiting of top students and athletes, threatening the college's rising financial and academic standing, said Aine Donovan, director of Dartmouth College's Ethics Institute. Buoyed by the football program, the university's endowment more than quintupled, to a record $1.83 billion, during Spanier's 16-year tenure.

"They are going to pay a serious price, especially when you look at Joe Paterno's motto of 'Success with honor,' " Donovan said in a phone interview. "The irony will not be lost on people. There is no way to minimize the impact."

Bruce Edelson, 73, president of the Fort Myers chapter of the Pennsylvania State Alumni Association, said he heard from about 30 alumni who may not give money because they are upset both about the scandal and the dismissal of Paterno, whom they don't blame for it.

Senior Christie Damato, 22, said she will be looking for a job next year and is concerned that the negative publicity will hurt the university's reputation and her job search in a weak economy.

Until now, Penn State, with 96,000 students and more than 500,000 alumni, had been on a roll under Spanier. The university raised $195.3 million last year, up from $82 million when he was named president in 1995, according to the Council for Aid to Education, which tracks gifts.

Paterno's football team was at the heart of Penn State's fundraising and rising academic profile. The Nittany Lions were 409-136-3 in Paterno's 46 years as head coach, winning national titles in 1982 and 1986.

Spanier, 63, also beefed up Penn State's honors program. In 1997, he accepted a $30 million gift to found the Schreyer Honors College, which now enrolls 1,800. The middle 50 percent of students entering for the fall of 2009 had high school grade- point averages of 3.98 to 4.33, according to the program's annual report.

In recent years, the program was able to lure away students who would have gone to selective schools such as the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Amherst because of its quality and affordable price, said Jeff Haviland, a private college consultant and former guidance counselor for 32 years at the Wallingford-Swarthmore, Pa., school district.

"I'm sure they will now take a hit in admissions," Haviland said in a telephone interview. "Kids may apply but choose not to go there. How things play out in the next few months is going to be crucial."

Penn State will likely see an immediate reduction in sponsorship money, said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Many sponsorship contracts have moral clauses built in that would allow companies to sever their relationship with the university. Penn State athletic sponsors include PepsiCo and AT&T.

Shame of sex-abuse scandal will cost Penn State for years, observers say 11/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 12, 2011 10:12pm]
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