No More Lazy Sundays

Bad behavior means Nittany Lions will be working on the weekends

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Aug. 25, 2007

By Adam Caparell

CSTV.com

 



ADAM CAPARELL

Adam is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
E-mail here!

About the last thing Dan Connor ever thought he'd be doing as a member of the Penn State football team was spending his Sundays in Beaver Stadium.

 

But after an offseason filled with off-the-field controversy centered around an off-campus incident, Connor and the rest of his Nittany Lion teammates will be laboring instead of relaxing on their day off.

 

That's because in the wake of six players being arrested after an off-campus fight in April, coach Joe Paterno decided his entire team needed to learn a lesson, not just half a dozen "knuckleheads."

 


 

 

So when May rolled around, Paterno made the announcement that the Nittany Lions would clean Beaver Stadium each Sunday after the seven home games scheduled for this fall.

 

It surprised the team, raised eyebrows across the country and has created a stir that's sure to last right up until Sept. 2, the first Sunday after the first home game.

 

"I never thought I'd be cleaning the stadium," Connor said. "I can't say I saw it coming, but we'll do it."

 

Connor and his teammates will pick up thousands of pounds of garbage and sweep the stands because of the actions of Chris Baker, Lydell Sargeant, Tyrell Sales and Jerome Hayes, along with secondary stars Justin King and Anthony Scirrotto, who allegedly forced their way into a party and proceeded to ignite a brawl. All six were arrested and arraigned on various felony charges shortly after the incident and it made big headlines in Pennsylvania.

 

"I think any time you get a bunch of guys in a fight, someone's going to have to write about it," Paterno said.

 

Some of the charges have since been dropped and only Scirrotto and Baker still face felony charges. A trial is expected to begin sometime in October.

 

In all, 10 players were disciplined by the University for their involvement in the fight while Scirrotto and Baker were actually dismissed from school for the summer sessions, but allowed to practice. 

 

The "team embarrassment," as Paterno has referred to the incident, has left the 80-year-old coach shaking his head in amazement. Paterno's seen a few things in his 42 years as the head man at PSU, but nothing quite like this.

 

"The frustrating part is that they know better," Paterno said. "That's one of the things I said to the team is that I'm going to (punish) all you guys because you're all dumb. We don't have a couple of guys who should have stepped in and said, `This is stupid'? I said, maybe you'll all learn a lesson."

 

The idea to clean the 107,000-plus capacity stadium came to Paterno from his years watching students clean and sweep the stands for money, only to then turn over their wages to their respective club teams to help fund their respective seasons.

 

"I told them this is what you are going to do," Paterno said. "I told them that when they are picking up a dirty bottle in the stadium that maybe they will think the next time before they do something."

 

Just how much trash the Nittany Lions will actually have to pick up or what the stadium looks like on Sundays remains to be seen. But what if Penn State plays poorly one afternoon? Will fans leave the stadium a mess?

 

"We've got some people who have said keep the stadium clean so we can support the team," Paterno said. "Well, I'm not for that."

 

But Paterno knows he's on a slippery slope. He wants to serve notice that conduct detrimental to the team and to the University, to which he's donated significant dollars over the years, will not go unpunished. But he doesn't want to alienate the players at fault. He's trying to build a little camaraderie that will be essential for a team Paterno's calling the youngest he's ever coached.

 

"You have to be careful not to destroy them, though," Paterno said. "I'm trying to get the players to understand what behavior is good for them."

 

The message already seems to be getting to them. They're approaching their upcoming duty, however unpleasant, in a business-like manner and won't let a little extra work get in the way of the larger team goal - a Big Ten title.

 

"It's something we have to do and we'll do together as a team and we're not going to point the finger and ruin team chemistry," quarterback Anthony Morelli said.

 

Paterno already had his players volunteer for Habitat For Humanity and the Special Olympics this offseason; now they'll volunteer for Penn State.

 

"There's not much to make of it," wide receiver Terrell Golden said. "Coach says we have to clean the stadium on Sundays so the whole team will be there cleaning."

 

Penn State hopes those cleaning sessions come after seven wins. They just want to get back onto the field and put all the off-the-field talk behind them because it's been the hot topic of conversation around the Nittany Lions.

 

"At first it was a pretty big distraction," Golden said. "But we've gotten past that. We're just trying to move forward."


And get done cleaning that stadium as fast as possible.

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