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Interim Coach Has 'Mixed Emotions' Leading Penn


Penn State University's new interim football coach says replacing Joe Paterno leaves him with mixed emotions. A somber, tired looking Tom Bradley held his first news conference today as coach. Paterno was abruptly fired by the Board of Trustees last night and his dismissal prompted a few thousand students to protest in the streets.

NPR's Jeff Brady is on the Penn State campus and says many there are hoping the school can now begin to put this week behind them.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: At his press conference, Tom Bradley declined to answer just about all the questions related to the child molestation scandal that has rocked the university over the past week. A former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, is accused of sexually abusing eight boys. Two high level administrators are facing charges they didn't report the abuse.

While Bradley wouldn't talk about that, he had only kind things to say about the man he's replacing.

TOM BRADLEY: Coach Paterno has meant more to me than anybody except my father.

BRADY: Bradley says he called Paterno late last night, but wouldn't say what they talked about. Paterno released a statement saying he was disappointed with the trustees' decision to fire him, but that he would have to accept the decision.

Bradley will have only a few days to get his legs under him before his first game as head coach against Nebraska on Saturday, and the fallout of the molestation scandal is still just about the only thing people on campus, including his team, are talking about.

BRADLEY: It's been very difficult. Very difficult to go through this, but I'm confident that, you know, we will find a way to heal, we'll find a way to get back on track and we'll find a way to come together.

BRADY: As crews work to repair damage to light poles and signs from last night's protest in downtown State College, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett urged students to stay calm this evening.

GOVERNOR TOM CORBETT: Please, please, behave and demonstrate your pride in Penn State.

BRADY: Just after noon, a few students gathered on campus in front of an administration building. The main topic was how Penn State can repair its tattered reputation. Sophomore Madeline Fitzgerald says a good start would be for university officials to focus on the alleged victims of the molestation scandal rather than sports.

MADELINE FITZGERALD: You know, it's the whole football culture. People not being focused on what's really important. You know, people who are looking out for their careers and, you know, trying to keep their jobs and that's why all this went on for as long as it did.

BRADY: Junior Ethan Wolfinger(ph) says he watched the protesters on television and stayed away from downtown.

ETHAN WOLFINGER: Well, I think last night was a shame. I mean, students really had the opportunity to not disgrace the name of Penn State even further and they did everything they could to destroy what little integrity we have left.

BRADY: Penn student Casey Phillips(ph) says she hopes people across the country will remember this.

CASEY PHILLIPS: It's a student body of 44,000 and - yes - that was a few thousand people and it's a lot and it shouldn't have been that many. It shouldn't have been anyone, but that is a minority. I truly believe that the majority of students here understand what Penn State stands for, and flipping over cars and violence and things like that is not what we stand for.

BRADY: The university board of trustees have their own plan for repairing Penn State's reputation. It includes an investigative committee that will examine how the molestation scandal developed, who's responsible and how to make sure something like it never happens again.

Trustees are meeting tomorrow and are expected to announce who will be on that committee. Jeff Brady, NPR News, state college, Pennsylvania. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
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