Big Ten notebook: Coaches react to Sandusky scandal


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Head coaches from around the Big Ten reacted to the sex-abuse scandal surrounding the Penn State football program during the conference's weekly teleconference on Tuesday. The coaches all declined to speak on the controversy itself, but most expressed admiration for 46th-year Nittany Lion head coach Joe Paterno.

A scandal involving the alleged sexual abuse of young boys by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has forced out two of the school's top officials, including the athletics director. The New York Times reported Tuesday Penn State University officials were planning for Paterno's exit, "perhaps within days or weeks," after the coach has come under criticism for failing to alert police when told of the abuse.

The university canceled Paterno's weekly press conference on Tuesday, and he did not appear for his interview session on the teleconference.

Illinois head coach Ron Zook called the situation "shocking," but he praised Paterno's character.

"Anybody who knows Coach Paterno knows he's a great person," Zook said. "What he has done for college football is just phenomenal. I think he's one of the top two or three guys in the history of college football. I don't know the situation or what happened, but you hate to see anything like that happen to a man like Coach Paterno."

Several Big Ten coaches echoed that, including Michigan State's Mark Dantonio.

"I'm not qualified to speak on the situation, but in regards to Coach Paterno, he has been an outstanding role model for college football," Dantonio said. "He has seen this game change in the course of 50 years, and somehow, some way, has kept pace with that change and excelled throughout his career. That longevity speaks volumes in terms of the man."

Ohio State interim head coach Luke Fickell is in charge of another program that has dealt with scandal and controversy this year. The Buckeyes have had numerous players suspended, and they lost quarterback Terrelle Pryor and head coach Jim Tressel because of NCAA violations.

Fickell shared some advice for whoever coaches Penn State past this scandal, whether it's Paterno or somebody else.

"It starts with leadership," Fickell said. "You've got to show confidence in what you're doing and make sure that your actions speak loudly. And if you want [players] to act or live life a certain way, they need to see you do it. You've got to make sure you can move forward."

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Paterno "seems like a class act." Wisconsin's Bret Bielema expressed concern for the alleged victims of the abuse, hoping "everyone there protects them and looks out for their best interests."

Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald had only one thought on the controversy.

"I'm not going to go into anything other than [saying] it's sad," he said. "It's really sad."

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