It seemed like things couldn’t get uglier for a Penn State away game than the Rutgers fans’ response in 2014.
That was when Nittany Lions fans showed up in New Jersey to see “Ped State” shirts and signs referencing the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Penn State ticket holders said they were taunted and called rapists and pedophiles.
But that couldn’t happen again with a longtime rival, right? Especially not with a game people have waited 15 years to see played again?
Signs aren’t good.
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On Wednesday, a Pitt fan blog, The Point 412, was hawking a shirt for the Sept. 10 game with Penn State, with the slogan “Joe Knew” on a dark blue background.
While The Point 412, billed as “a fun blog,” has a page that can’t be seen at the moment, its Twitter feed tells the story of months of needling about the Sandusky developments regarding allegations late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno knew about abuse for decades and the upcoming game, culminating in the shirts.
And then the Penn State fans found out about it.
“The truth is that Paterno acted properly on the information he was given, and PSU shared that information with the administrators of Sandusky’s charity. We need to defend that truth, especially since Penn State leadership refuses to do so. As has been the case over the last five years, alumni have once again stepped in to do the job that Old Main should be doing,” said Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship spokeswoman Maribeth Roman Schmidt.
Nittany Nation took the case to social media and sent out calls to Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour.
“Yes, I am aware (of the shirts). I spoke with (Pitt AD) Scott Barnes about the issue, and he was adamant that Pitt is not affiliated with the shirts,” Barbour said Thursday. “As far as I know they aren’t being sold anymore.”
That’s right. On Thursday morning, The Point 412 announced via Twitter that due to “harassment” and “negative backlash,” all orders were being canceled and no shirts sold.
“You will never see them,” the blog tweeted.
Actually, that’s not all that won’t be seen.
“We’ll leave the account up for the day so you can read those last two tweets. Then it’s goodbye,” The Point 412 tweeted.
Barbour had little comment on the incident other than to say she didn’t want to see a situation like the one that happened at Rutgers. On Nov. 19, Penn State will return to Piscataway, N.J., for the first time since the Scarlet Knights’ athletic director apologized for their fans behavior.
“The University of Pittsburgh condemns the insensitive efforts of a website promoting messages that are both grossly inappropriate and completely unrepresentative of Pitt's values,” the school’s athletic department said in a statement Thursday, describing the site as “in no way affiliated, formally or informally, with our university.”
The athletic department said it contacted Penn State upon learning of the situation to stress that “such actions are neither condoned nor tolerated by the University of Pittsburgh.”
“There is a tremendous excitement surrounding the resumption of the Pitt-Penn State series, not only in Pennsylvania but nationwide,” the department said. “As host of this first game, Pitt is wholeheartedly committed to promoting a fan-friendly environment that will showcase the very best of college football, on and off the field.”
Jourdan Rodrigue contributed to this report.