Published November 20, 2014
The child sex-abuse scandal that has rocked Penn State and led to the ouster of longtime coach Joe Paterno and the university's president will likely have a negative effect on the team's performance against Nebraska on Saturday, a sports psychologist told FoxNews.com.
Dr. Thomas Ferraro, a New York-area sports psychologist, said this week's events will have "serious repercussions" on the field for No. 12 Penn State (8-1) when it takes on Nebraska (7-2) at noon on Saturday at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa.
"It has to be a distraction, it's a serious problem," Ferraro told FoxNews.com. "Athletes are human beings, they will be influenced by social events. How can there not be an impact?"
Ferraro said incoming head coach Tom Bradley, who has been a member of the team's coaching staff since 1980, will do his best to "calm things down" in an effort to get his Nittany Lions to focus on the game -- and not the allegations surrounding former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who has been charged with sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year period.
"The general play is to calm things down, that's what you want," Ferraro said. "They're going to have to try and manage it."
Saturday's game is also Senior Day, another factor likely to add to the game's added emotional weight.
Matt Stankiewitch, the team's starting center, told the Republican Herald that Wednesday was a "very emotional" day not just for university's football team, but for the entire college. He added, however, that he and his teammates have been largely unaffected by the ongoing sex abuse scandal. The team has had normal practices in preparation for Saturday's home finale.
Stankiewitch told the newspaper that the team had a good practice on Wednesday, with team energy high. He said nationally-ranked Penn State will have extra motivation this weekend.
"Every week we have motivation to win," he told the newspaper. "Building the fire this week … you can't deny it. It's a little extra motivation for us to get this victory for Joe, get this victory for Penn State."
Ferraro, meanwhile, said Stankiewitch did have a "legitimate point," adding that negative situations off the field can have positive effects come game time.
"That's the flipside, it's such a motivating factor and a focusing process that sometimes you do see that," Ferraro said. "But one would assume the majority of the kids will be [less focused]. Generally, it's not going to help."
Saturday's contest will mark the first time since a 19-0 loss to Pittsburgh in 1949 that Penn State will be without Paterno on the coaching staff, according to the Daily Collegian, the school's independent newspaper. 2011 marks Paterno's 46th year as the team's head coach; Paterno is also first head coach to have been fired from the team, the Daily Collegian reports.
The ouster of the man affectionately known as "JoePa" brings to an end one of the most storied coaching careers -- not just in college football but in all of sports. Paterno has 409 victories -- a record for major college football -- won two national titles and guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons. He reached 300 wins faster than any other coach.
Bradley, 52, served as a graduate assistant in 1979 and has been a member of the coaching staff since 1980, the Daily Collegian reports.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.