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New look, new definitions of success for Penn State post-scandal

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Winning still means everything to Penn State linebacker Mike Mauti, but success this season won't be defined by titles or a bowl.

It's a view he holds in part by necessity after the NCAA imposed strict sanctions on the program for the child sex abuse scandal involving retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

After a stormy offseason unlike any other team has seen, the Nittany Lions have goals in mind other than championship banners and trophies.

"I'm not really a believer in moral victories," Mauti, a standout linebacker and senior leader, said Thursday. "At the same time, when all is said and done, I don't think we're going to get judged on wins and losses."

It's not the normal chatter heard at Penn State media day, when the talk is typically about jockeying with Ohio State and Wisconsin atop the Big Ten or pie-in-the-sky hopes for a trip to the BCS.

But this has been anything but a normal year in Happy Valley.

Among the NCAA penalties are a four-year postseason ban and significant scholarship cuts.

The Nittany Lions undoubtedly still want to win every game. But they're using other motivating factors like playing for each other and the fans who have rallied behind the squad, as well as bringing more awareness to the problem of child abuse.

But the sanctions remain a sensitive topic in Happy Valley. Several school trustees have told the NCAA that they intend to appeal the penalties, as have several former players.

"I respect everybody's individual decision to do what they have to do, what they think is right. That is their individual opinion or their group's opinion, and I respect that. I would never step into the middle of that," coach Bill O'Brien said when asked about the appeal notices.

"That's not what I want to do. I'm here to be the football coach."

From nearly the day he was hired in January to replace fired Hall of Famer Joe Paterno, O'Brien has espoused a message of respecting traditions at Penn State but moving the program forward:

-- Past the stinging results of former FBI director Louis Freeh's internal investigation into the scandal, which concluded that Paterno and three other school officials concealed allegations against Sandusky. Paterno died in January, and his family and the officials have vehemently denied that any cover-up took place.

-- Past the discontent around Happy Valley over the sanctions handed down by the NCAA as a result of Freeh's findings.

-- Past the attention over the exodus of nine players in light of the harsh penalties.

"Now we all have to come together and realize we're in the position we're in. We have to. We have to stop arguing about it, and we've got to move forward," said O'Brien, who later made sure to make clear this was his personal opinion.

The uniform changes announced this week are an example of the transition. Penn State is still keeping its standard blue and white color scheme, but will add names to the backs of the jerseys for the first time to recognize players who stuck with the program in crisis.

A blue ribbon will also be added to show support for victims of child abuse.

"But again, at the end of the day ... the most important patch on the uniform is the blue patch and blue ribbon that will signify putting an end to child abuse," O'Brien said.