Even in the throes of the worst scandal in the university's history, fans of the Penn State Nittany Lions are capable of rising up in defense of their school's name.
Suzanne Collins, chief of staff for state Sen. Nancy Jacobs, got a taste of the power of organized alumni after she sent out a news release inviting the media to cover a rally in favor of what she called Jacobs' "Penn State bill" providing criminal penalties for people who are required to report information about known or suspected child abuse but who do not.
The bill was inspired by the case of former Penn State footbal defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was charged last year with multiple sex offenses against boys and whose case led to the firing of the late Joe Paterno as Penn State coach. Former university officials have been criticized for failing to ensure a vigorous investigation after a member of Paterno's staff allegedly witnessed what he described as a sex act involving Sandusky and a boy.
Joe McCann, a Penn State alumnus and Maryland-licensed real estate broker from Elkins Park, Pa., fired off a protest aginst the Harford County Republican's use of the Penn State name to describe her bill.
"The 90,000 students and 700,000 alums of Penn State are outraged by the name of this bill. Why is the University's name being slandered for cheap political attention?" McCann wrote in an email to the senator's office that he also circulated among Penn Staters who live in Maryland.
It didn't take long for Collins to back down. On Tuesday morning, she sen out an email to Maryland media outlets.
"I have referenced Penn State in relation to the bill that adds penalties for not reporting child abuse. This has upset some Penn State alumni," Collins wrote. "I apologize for that and will not be referring to it that way anymore. Instead I am referring to SB 140 as Child Abuse Reporting Penalties bill."
McCann said he's glad Jacobs backed down but isn't letting her off the hook entirely.
"It's still her fault that she had the idae she was going to brand this piece of legislation as the Penn State bill," said McCann, a Class of 1978 graduate and father of a Penn State student. McCann noted that Jacobs is running for Congress in Maryland 2nd District.
McCann said he was not reacting as a Penn State football fan, adding that he doesn't own season tickets.
"I am doing this as the parent of a Penn Stater," he said.