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Penn State clueless in wake of scandal

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Greg Couch

Greg Couch has been a national columnist at AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News and an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was featured twice in "Best American Sports Writing" and was recognized by the US Tennis Writers Association for best column writing and match coverage. He covers tennis on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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It comes naturally for Penn State to protect its brand. And you can’t really blame the school for being in crisis-management mode, not now.

But it feels wrong anyway. It is just too cold now to see an institution trying to protect itself.

Penn State is buying up .XXX Internet domains with the school name and nicknames. Why? To try to prevent people from starting up porn sites with the school’s name in light of Penn State’s child sex abuse scandal.

“The cost was $200 per trademark, but this purchase should also prevent someone from buying a domain that includes our trademark along with other words,’’ Penn State spokesman Jeffrey Hermann told FoxNews.com in an email. “(For example) our purchase of nittanylion.xxx is intended to prevent someone from purchasing a url such as nittanyliongirls.’’

It makes sense, business sense. Penn State is just trying to protect itself from porn sleaze, trying to protect its image. But really? This is what they’re thinking about now, while the details, the size and the shape of this scandal and its horrors are only just beginning to come out?

If Joe Paterno, along with the former athletic director and school president, hadn’t been so hell-bent on protecting Penn State football’s brand – at the expense of young boys allegedly being sexually abused by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky – then maybe some of those boys could have been saved, not to mention the once-good name of Paterno.

So to see Penn State back in brand-protecting mode, well, even if makes sense, it is maddening. It is damning.

Protecting domain names will do absolutely nothing for the image, by the way. It’s just some tiny nonsense showing Penn State’s hyper-sensitivity to its name, which is now, and for decades, mud.

It also shows how lost Penn State is, not recognizing that the tidal wave has yet to hit.

Penn State has no idea what it’s up against. The lawsuits are just starting. Students are likely to transfer away, too.

On Wednesday. A 29-year-old man, who was not mentioned in the first grand jury report about Sandusky, filed suit. He is the first plaintiff to file a suit in the case. He says that Sandusky abused him more than 100 times, and then threatened him to keep quiet. The suit names Sandusky, Penn State and Sandusky’s charity, The Second Mile, which was supposed to be about helping disadvantaged kids, but instead, if allegations are true, seems to have served as Sandusky’s picking ground.

“I am hurting and have been for a long time because of what happened, but feel now even more tormented that I have learned of so many other kids were abused after me,’’ the new accuser, who remains anonymous, reportedly said in a statement his lawyer read at a news conference Wednesday.

Meanwhile, school administrators and students planned to talk at a two-hour public forum Wednesday night to discuss the scandal. School officials referred to it as part of a community healing process. It is absurd to think the school is anywhere near the healing process yet.

The most horrific part of the illness is still coming.

The man filing the lawsuit tells a similar story to the ones the grand jury already alleged. It’s safe to assume that dozens more lawsuits will be filed, all with gruesome details that will reflect directly on Penn State.

Meanwhile, Sandusky is in his own crisis-management mode. His attorney is attacking the credibility of the alleged victims. In response, Andrew Shubin, attorney for alleged Victim 2, released a statement:

“Our investigation reveals that Sandusky is an unrepentant child predator. He caused incalculable devastation to children, their families and our community and is continuing to do so through his attacks on the victims’ credibility.’’

This is just the beginning. And Penn State is out hopelessly and cluelessly buying up .xxx domains and holding community forums.

Penn State tries to protect itself. Sandusky tries to protect himself.

Logically, you couldn’t expect them to do things any differently.

But it’s hard to feel too much concern for Penn State’s name potentially being victimized by a smutty sex industry.

We can hope that the school is true to its word now, cooperating fully with any and all investigations. For decades, Penn State apparently wasn’t protecting young boys, while it chose to protect its brand instead.

It has spent enough time protecting itself already.

Tagged: Penn State

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