DALLAS - The Penn State football team's imminent arrival for the TicketCity Bowl has caught the attention of the Dallas-area's child-advocacy community but is not likely to lead to any protests, leaders of several area organizations said.
The 24th-ranked Nittany Lions, scheduled to travel to Dallas on Dec. 26 to prepare for their matchup with No. 20 Houston on Jan. 2 at the Cotton Bowl, have become a lightning rod for criticism and controversy since accusations of child sexual abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky surfaced in November. And when they accepted a bid to the TicketCity Bowl, a possible response was discussed by the Child Abuse Prevention Coalition, which includes representatives of 30 child-advocacy organizations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
But none of them is planning to protest.
"I don't think it's right [to protest]," said Lynn Davis, the CEO of the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center who said he grew up in Pennsylvania as a rabid Penn State fan. "The teams worked very hard to get where they are this year and I think you'd do a disservice to both universities to go out and do a protest or make a statement during what is their crowning accomplishment for the year. So we don't have any plans to do that."
Penn State acting athletic director Dave Joyner and TicketCity Bowl president and CEO Tom Starr said they have had no indication of any planned protests surrounding the bowl activities. Starr said the bowl has "not had one negative call or email to our offices."
Still, Davis said, the presence of Penn State in Dallas offers his center and others the chance to bring their message of abuse prevention to a wider audience than usual, something they might be able to take advantage of through the increased media coverage the Lions' visit will bring.
"It gives us the opportunity to get on our soapbox and say, 'This has got to be stopped. We've got to take a look at this,' " Davis said. "If nothing else this can shed some light where light needs to be shed."
That was a common thread among child advocacy leaders. Marissa Gonzales, public information officer for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services' regional office in Arlington, said media inquiries have increased since the Penn State scandal broke and she expects more before the bowl.
And that, she said, gives her a chance to inform the public about the state's strict laws regarding reporting suspected child abuse.
"That's really the only part of the story we can actually make any sort of statement about," Gonzales said. "The controversy has been whether or not the [Penn State] coaches did enough to protect these children, and the law in Texas requires every person who suspects abuse or neglect to report it to authorities. It's not enough to tell your boss, it's not enough to tell someone else. If you suspect it's happening, you have to report it to [Child Protective Services] or law enforcement."
Paige Flink, executive director of The Family Place in Dallas, said she didn't consider protesting the Penn State team because she can see the players' point of view - her son, Alex, plays baseball at Princeton.
"I feel so terrible for the players," she said. "I have a student-athlete myself. If something like this happened and it reflected so horribly on the program my son worked so hard for . . . I'm coming at it from that perspective.