Penn State President Rodney Erickson faced a verbal firing squad of angry alumni last week.
In a three-night tour with stops in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York City, Erickson fielded questions from Penn State supporters upset about the Jerry Sandusky scandal and all of its fallout that has turned State College into much less than a happy valley.
The events drew crowds of 600 in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and 300 in New York. Many loudly vented frustration and disagreed with Joe Paterno's firing, and Erickson didn't have a lot of specific answers and was left flat-footed at times.
The public's reaction was understandable given the wide swing of emotions Penn Staters have experienced since the story broke of Sandusky's arrest for 40 counts of sexual abuse of eight children (the number of victims later grew to 10) and led to the ousters of Paterno and school president Graham Spanier.
At the same time, Penn State has not been the most open institution - one reason it's in this current mess - so we give Erickson credit for gauging the rage, which was considerable.
At least he was willing to meet the public.
Much of the venom was aimed at the board of trustees and its treatment of Paterno, college football's winningest coach.
There is no doubt the board erred badly, not so much in its ultimate decision on Paterno's ability to continue to lead the football program but in the timing and execution of its message.
Sending assistant athletic director Fran Ganter to Paterno's home at nearly 10 p.m. on Nov. 9 with a note to call board Vice Chairman John Surma was a horrendous public-relations move - from which the school may never fully recover.
Sue Paterno told The Washington Post last week that her husband, who served the school for 61 years, "deserved better," and we agree.
Erickson said he would like to honor Paterno's career in some fashion, and we hope that can be arranged as well.
Erickson attempted to distance the university from Sandusky by saying "this isn't a Penn State scandal. This is the Sandusky scandal."
We're not buying that.
According to testimony heard by a state grand jury, now retired university Vice President Gary Schultz - who was in charge of security - knew about an investigation of Sandusky's inappropriate behavior with a child in 1998 as well in 2002 when Paterno referred an allegation of Mike McQueary witnessing Sandusky "fondling" a youngster to Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley.
After police decided not to press charges in 1998, the 2002 incident should at least have been reported to authorities and was not.
That constitutes a cover-up - no matter how Erickson wants to interpret it - and it's important that Penn State gets to the bottom of how its culture allowed Sandusky to continue to have campus privileges years after the allegations were made.
While Erickson, who has already announced he will be stepping down in 2014, regroups from last week with the public's feedback still ringing in his ears, we truly hope he's not in denial.