Penn State Game: ESPN Takes High Road in Coverage (Opinion)

As the Nittany Lions reel from the firing of university president Graham Spanier and longtime football coach Joe Paterno, the sports network employs tact during coverage of Saturday's match against Nebraska.

What could have been a sensational assault on Penn St. and the child-abuse sex scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was instead handled with taste by ESPN during Saturday's broadcast of the school's game against Nebraska.

The sports broadcaster addressed the issue in its interviews with new head coach Tom Bradley and quarterback coach Jay Paterno, son of ousted head coach Joe Paterno, but did not go overboard in its approach.

The 84-year-old Paterno, who has had a successful 46-year coaching career, was fired Wednesday along with president Graham Spanier. The move came in the wake of Sandusky being charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse of children. Paterno has been criticized for failing to contact authorities when he was told about possible misconduct by Sandusky nine years ago.

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USA Today's Michael McCarthy writes that ESPN "delivered effective, nuanced coverage of the school's first game since the explosive child abuse sex scandal that cost coach Joe Paterno his job."

McCarthy notes, "ESPN wisely kept a camera trained on Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, from the second he left his parents' home to him charging off the team bus to repeated shots of him prowling the sideline" and "ESPN's on-air talent wisely kept the focus where it should have been Saturday: the players and coaches from the Nittany Lions and Cornhuskers; the victims and their families; and the tough future for the folks in Happy Valley who face years of lawsuits, scandal coverage and rebuilding."

Penn St. lost the game 17-14.

Halftime shows on other networks such as CBS and ABC that were televising college gridiron games Saturday mentioned the scandal when reporting game scores but were mostly restrained like ESPN.

Bradley told ESPN after the game, "It was unprecedented, probably in the history of college sports what went on here. And we really grieve for the victims, really feel sad for the families of the children. I think they saw the student body today, the support they had for the victims and the children, that we're all here today. A lot of the things that went on today, it was all about them."

Paterno said, before turning away in tears, "We've had better weeks in our lives. I think about a week ago, where we were sitting and the world's kinda turned upside down. Our kids were resilient, I think they had some real challenges and they played hard. Unfortunately, they came up a little bit short."

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said of the situation in the postgame press conference, "It was bigger than the game that was just played. "Trust me when I tell you, I don't know the specifics of the situation. I'm not judging anybody, but the fact is young kids were hurt. That's a crime in itself. It's a lot bigger than football. It's a lot bigger than the NCAA, the Big Ten or anything else."




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