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Oh, how the mighty have fallen

Lantern file photo

A year ago, fans would have scoffed at the thought of an Ohio State versus Penn State football game without Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno. To suggest that both now-former coaches would have been forced from their posts in shame would have been laughable.

This is the reality the Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions and their fans face as the respective football programs prepare for the first meeting without both coaches participating in 10 years.

Tressel, who compiled a 94-21 record at OSU, saw his tenure at the university end when he was forced to resign on May 30 for failing to report NCAA infractions by his players and knowingly fielding a team with ineligible players during the 2010 season, which was later vacated. In December, it was revealed that six OSU football players sold team memorabilia in exchange for improper benefits in the form of tattoos.

Happy Valley was rocked by its own football program’s misdeeds in the last two weeks.

Former PSU defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing children, according to a release from Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly’s office. PSU’s president for finance and business Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley were also charged with perjury and failure to report child abuse. Former university President Graham Spanier resigned in the wake of the charges being made public and Paterno, NCAA Division I’s all-time wins leader and the head coach of PSU football for 46 years, was fired.

On the night the PSU Board of Trustees announced Spanier’s resignation and Paterno’s firing, a faction of students rioted in State College, Pa., flipping a TV news truck on College Avenue and harassing police and members of the media.

Kickoff for Saturday’s game is hours away, and two former coaches that combined for 503 total wins at OSU and PSU will not play any part in the contest.

At a Tuesday press conference, first-year OSU coach Luke Fickell said and interim PSU coach Tom Bradley would be more concerned with the players that suit up for Saturday’s competition.

“Those are two people (Tressel and Paterno) that won’t be here,” Fickell said. “So, we probably focus on the things we have and not the things we’ve lost.”

Rich Scarcella is a writer for the Reading Eagle newspaper in Reading, Pa., and is the longest-tenured PSU football beat writer in the country. Scarcella said the Nittany Lions’ 17-14 home loss to Nebraska Saturday — the team’s first game without Paterno on the coaching staff since 1949 — was emotional and moving.

“I think the people who planned (the game) for Penn State did a really nice job of remembering (Sandusky’s alleged) victims and making it as solemn a football game as you can have,” Scarcella said.

Scarcella said the Nittany Lions’ first game without Paterno was historically significant to the PSU community, but added that he understood how this Saturday’s game is also the importance of Saturday’s game to Buckeye Nation.

“For Ohio State … being in Columbus, it looks like a really historical game,” Scarcella said. “I don’t know if there’s many parallels at all (between the two schools) other than the fact that Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno are no longer the head coaches.”

The coaches now presiding over the two programs — Fickell for OSU and PSU interim coach Tom Bradley — have combined for six total wins.

Fickell said that his time as OSU head coach isn’t about him, adding that Bradley probably felt the same way.

“Since I started this and took over, it wasn’t a stamp that I was going to put on it’s going to be about what I think is important. I’m sure coach Bradley is the same way,” Fickell said. “You’re not going to make excuses with a whole lot of things in whatever situation you’re dealt. Like we said, life isn’t fair. There are some similarities (between the programs) … it’s not going to be about me.” Saturday’s game between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions is set to kick off at 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.

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