Outside of State College, Pa., and relatively hardcore football circles, most of America was introduced to former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky over the weekend as a pariah accused of using the university and his own charity as gateways to repeated acts of sexual assault over more than a decade. The fallout has already claimed the jobs of Joe Paterno and a pair of administrators charged with allowing Sandusky to remain a campus fixture despite multiple accusations and warning signs that he was a potential predator.
Locally, though, Sandusky was well-known not only as the architect of two decades of first-rate Nittany Lion defenses, but also as a humanitarian who genuinely cared about helping kids, his university and his community. For some measure of how deeply ingrained his reputation was before the outrages of the last five days, look no further than a mural by local artist Michael Pilato taking up half of a block outside the student bookstore on Penn State's campus. Pilato has spent a decade on the painting, regularly updating it with the most respected faces in State College, include Sandusky's.
And for some measure of how hard the news has hit, look no further than the fact that Pilato spent his morning literally painting Sandusky out of the picture. From the Harrisburg Patriot-News:
When the mother of one of Sandusky's alleged victims emailed him Wednesday morning, asking him to remove Sandusky from the mural, Pilato knew he had to do it.
"I believe in due process. I do. (But) with all the evidence in the news right now and some of the (alleged) victims living here, it kills me to think of the victims having to walk past this," he said. "It saddens me to do this. When I first met Jerry, I thought he was a great man. He fooled me like he fooled everyone."
In Sandusky's place, Pilato painted a chair with a blue ribbon to represent the alleged victims. For Paterno's portrait, he plans to add a blue ribbon to the shirt. "I've heard his words," Pilato told The Patriot-News, referring to Paterno's resignation statement, "and I can feel he's really disturbed by this."
Elsewhere, the on-campus Berkey Creamery — home to more than 100 flavors of ice cream, many named for campus figures — has discontinued a flavor named for Sandusky, a "banana flavored ice cream with chocolate covered peanuts and caramel swirl" known as "Sandusky Blitz." For the record, the famous "Peachy Paterno" remains on the menu. Though something tells me future sales might not be so brisk.