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Neb regent fears for player, fan safety at PSU

Penn State students and others gather off campus following the firing of football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier amid the growing furor over how the school handled sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, in State College, Pa. Penn State students and others gather off campus following the firing of football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier amid the growing furor over how the school handled sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
By Eric Olson
AP Sports Writer / November 10, 2011

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LINCOLN, Neb.—A University of Nebraska regent called for safety assurances from Penn State on Thursday, saying he fears for the Cornhuskers' football traveling party and fans at this weekend's game.

Regent Tim Clare of Lincoln said he began worrying about safety while watching televised coverage of the scene in State College, Pa., after coach Joe Paterno's firing Wednesday night.

Police in riot gear dispersed about 2,000 people who took to the streets after coach Joe Paterno was fired. Crowds toppled a television news van and kicked in its windows, and at least one photographer was pelted with a rock. Officers used pepper spray at times to control the crowd.

Clare said he called Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne early Thursday morning to discuss safety.

"Happy Valley is a pretty interesting place on a normal football Saturday," Clare said. "Given what's developed the last several days, particularly last night, we have a duty to ensure that our football student-athletes, staff, coaches and our fans are safe."

Penn State police chief Tyrone Parham wrote in an email to the Associated Press on Thursday that his force is "taking extra precautions and has added additional resources for the game." He didn't elaborate.

Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley, speaking at a news conference, admonished students to not engage in hooliganism because they're upset about Paterno's firing in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky.

"I think the message is clear: Let's show them what Penn State is really all about ... Let's show class; let's show dignity," Bradley said.

Bradley said he wasn't worried about the safety of Penn State's players on Saturday.

Clare said PSU police should lay out a specific security plan to Nebraska officials and say how it will be carried out.

"If we're not satisfied with that answer, we look to Plan B," Clare said, though he would not speculate on alternatives if Nebraska officials aren't satisfied with Penn State's security plans.

Nebraska season-ticket holder Jeff "Rocky" Sisel of Arlington, Va., who travels the country following his beloved Huskers, said his safety concerns won't stop him from going to Happy Valley.

He was at the Huskers' previous game at Penn State, a 40-7 loss in 2002, and said he and other Nebraska fans were treated rudely. Sisel said Nittany Lions fans had a vendetta against the Huskers, who were voted national champion over unbeaten Penn State in 1994.

Sisel said he will go with four or five friends to Saturday's game. He said he's considered renting a car for the trip because he's worried his own vehicle will be targeted for vandalism.

"I wouldn't have thought about it otherwise, but I'm worried about the spirit and the feeling that these students are having," Sisel said. "Are they going to take it out on Nebraska people?

"I'm a little nervous, but I'm fine. I'm going to wear the Husker red proudly and hope for the best."

So will Jana Gross, a 1987 Nebraska graduate who lives in Baltimore. She said she and her husband have had their tickets for two months and are planning to go to Happy Valley unless more unrest develops.

"I really think cooler heads will prevail," she said.

Osborne acknowledged that Nebraska has had "a number of inquiries from fans regarding the circumstances at Penn State and the conditions they might expect in attending the game." He said Nebraska officials have talked with Penn State police and interim athletic director Mark Sherburne.

"We have visited with Penn State security and we understand they are enhancing their security efforts for Saturday's game and are taking extra precautions to ensure that all players, coaches and fans are treated in a respectful way," Osborne said. "We know that our fans will reciprocate and display good sportsmanship."