(Reuters) - Rutgers football fans who wore T-shirts that read “Ped State” to a weekend game with Pennsylvania State University were “classless,” the New Jersey school said on Monday, apologizing for the taunting reference to a former Penn State coach’s child sex abuse convictions.
“I would like to apologize ... to the Penn State University fans, as well as Rutgers fans that were subjected to this classless display that does not represent the ethos of our university, athletic department or fan base,” Rutgers Athletic Director Julie Hermann said in a statement.
A photograph of one fan at the Rutgers home game wearing a shirt that read “Beat Ped State” appeared on a Rutgers Facebook page as part of a montage of images.
The shirts substituted Pennsylvania State’s Nittany Lion mascot with an Internet meme known as pedo-bear. Also appearing on the Facebook page was a photo of a banner that contained the Penn State logo with an image that appeared to depict an adult engaged in a sex act with a child.
Both were references to Jerry Sandusky, Penn State’s former assistant football coach, who was convicted in 2012 of molesting 10 boys over 15 years. He is serving a 30-to-60-year prison sentence.
The scandal, which included allegations of a cover-up among senior university executives, rocked Penn State and led to the firing of the school’s longtime head football coach Joe Paterno.
In the wake of the scandal, the NCAA banned Penn State from appearing in bowl games for four years and curtailed the number of scholarships available to athletes.
The NCAA voted last week to ease those sanctions, citing the university’s significant progress ensuring the athletics department acted with integrity.
The move allows Penn State to appear in a bowl game at the end of this season and to offer a full compliment of 85 football scholarships next season.
Penn State beat Rutgers 13-10 Sunday with a come-from-behind win.
Editing by Frank McGurty and Peter Cooney