College Town Built on Football Fears Fallout From a Scandal

Ann McClure's picture

In the scattered towns of central Pennsylvania, Penn State football is as much an industry as a devotion, fueled by the hundreds of thousands of fans who converge here on fall weekends and spend on hotels, meals, drinks and a mind-boggling array of Nittany Lions memorabilia. But in the wake of a child molestation scandal and resulting sanctions that will weaken the football program for years, people who do business here fear a thinning of those cheering, tailgating hordes, which could spell economic trouble for the region. “We really have nothing to compare this to, so nobody can make any predictions,” said Maggie Biddle, the general manager of the stately Atherton Hotel, a block from the campus. “Except we know it’s probably going to hurt all of us.” The canaries in this peculiar coal mine are the shops strung along College Avenue, their windows facing the campus and their shelves and racks lined with Penn State T-shirts, key chains, mugs, sweat pants, tote bags, umbrellas, posters and even jewelry.

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