STATE COLLEGE, Pa (Reuters) - Penn State University students were warned by local police not to take to the streets on Saturday at the football team’s final home game to protest the sacking of legendary coach Joe Paterno amid a sexual abuse scandal.
State College Police Department Captain John Gardner said he plans to have every officer working at the game against Nebraska, where some fear students may protest the ouster of Paterno after 46 years in charge of the team.
“It you truly support Coach Joe or Penn State, this is not the way,” Gardner told a news conference. “Stay off the street. The behavior of last night will not be tolerated.”
Chanting “Hell no, Joe won’t go” and “We want Joe back,” thousands of students took to the streets overnight to protest the decision, overturning a television van during a demonstration which some police dispersed using pepper spray.
Gardner said more than a dozen people were arrested when as many as 5,000 students protested on Wednesday evening in what he said degenerated into a “riotous mob.”
Pennsylvania State Police and the university police force will assist the town’s police on Saturday, Gardner said.
A child sexual abuse scandal brought down Paterno, one of the most iconic names in American sports, amid criticism he did not do enough to stop crimes allegedly committed by his long-time former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Paterno, winner of two national championships and in his 46th year as head coach of the Nittany Lions, was criticized for not doing more to intervene when incidents of Sandusky’s abuse were brought to his attention in 2002.
Sandusky, 67, is accused of sexually abusing at least eight boys over more than a decade. Two other university officials have been charged with not reporting an incident in 2002 when Sandusky allegedly was seen sexually assaulting a child.
Lawyers for all three men have said they deny the charges and maintain their innocence.
Graham Spanier, Penn State’s president for 16 years and a family therapist by training, was also sacked on Wednesday.
Former athletic director Tim Curley and former finance official Gary Schultz were charged on Monday with failing to alert police after they were told Sandusky was seen molesting a young boy in the locker room showers in 2002. They were also charged with perjury in their statements to a grand jury.
Reporting by Ernest Scheyder and Ian Simpson; Writing by Mark Egan; Editing by Jerry Norton