UNIVERSITY PARK — Hours before the Nittany Lions kickoff Saturday, Penn State fans gathered for a rally on the steps of Old Main with a message for university leaders: Step down.
Franco Harris, who played football under Joe Paterno, and one of the universitys own board members, Anthony Lubrano, were among the speakers at the rally, which lasted about an hour.
The blue-andwhite-clad audience members were passionate at times, with alumni and others holding up signs and 409 towels, cheering and yelling out calls for board members to resign. As coach, Paterno reached 409 wins, but the NCAA vacated 111 of them as part of its penalties.
Harris said Penn State has stood nearly 160 years, but the boards actions from one night will be remembered.
It only took one night, just one night for the B.O.T. to lay a path of destruction never before seen on any college campus. One night, Nov. 9, we will always remember that, he said, referring to the day the board fired Paterno as head coach and Graham Spanier as president.
The Rally for Resignations got its start on message boards in discussions among alumni upset with the boards response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
The crowd appeared to number close to 1,000, growing after the rally started at 10 a.m. Many there wore T-shirts supporting Paterno or criticizing the board, which fired Paterno for what it said was a lack of leadership in response to the allegations of child sexual abuse by Sandusky, who has since been convicted.
Joe Grassi, a Penn State fan who lives in Nazareth, said the board made the situation worse.
This isnt just about Joe, Grassi said. Its about a great university they basically threw to the wolves.
Among the criticisms being lobbed at the board is that it accepted the report it commissioned Louis Freeh to do. That report faults Paterno, Spanier and two other former administrators, saying they tried to cover up the abuse.
Trustees have since said that accepting the report doesnt mean they agree with everything in it and that theyre focused on studying the recommendations to improve the university.
A university spokesman declined to comment about Saturdays rally.
Lubrano, who also spoke, slammed the 32-member board saying he doesnt know who many of the people he serves with represent, but I know they dont serve you well.
Their idea of us healing is just to move forward. Well, we cannot move forward by leaving behind the people who made us who we are, Lubrano said, to cheers.
Lubrano is among those calling for legislative reform of the boards makeup, which includes nine alumnielected trustees along with appointees by the governor and representatives from agriculture and industry.
When speaking about governor-appointed trustees, Lubrano said he doesnt know who is advising Tom Corbett, but it looks like his days are numbered.
He urged those in the audience to vote in statewide offices and trustees races, contact legislators and stay informed.
You can make a difference. You can make that impact, he said.
James Stirling, who was at the rally with his wife, Barbara Stirling, of St. Inigoes, Md., said he was there to get a different perspective on what has been happening.
There are still a lot of questions, answers that need to be uncovered, James Stirling said.
The Stirlings are Penn State parents, graduates and season ticketholders.
We truly are Penn State proud, Barbara Stirling said. Its been a sad 10 months. I think its time that Penn State alumni stood up. And I think thats what they were asking for here.
Bridget Deromedi, a 2002 Penn State graduate who lives in State College and was wearing a T-shirt saying Due process is due Joe, said she would like the board to admit the mistakes it made, including acting quickly without all the facts.
They actually started the ball rolling with putting Joe up as a scapegoat, she said. They need to repair his name, and they need to stand up for the university. They didnt stand up for the university to the NCAA. They didnt stand up for the university to the media. And thats their job. Theyre supposed to stick up for us and represent us, and they didnt do a ver y good job.
At least a few of the people at the rally were there to show support for the universitys leaders, including President Rodney Erickson.
Denice Wardrop, a member of the Penn State faculty, said Erickson is a thoughtful and deliberative person.
Thats exactly what we need, she said. I respect his leadership. I have no doubt that hes made his decisions with the best interest of the university at heart, nothing else. And as a faculty member I want to support him.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy