(CNN) — Penn State’s football team returns for a preseason workout Tuesday as it heads into its first season in decades without iconic head coach Joe Paterno, who passed away in January during the tempest of a sex abuse scandal.
A pep rally is scheduled to greet arriving the Nittany Lions at 6 a.m. ET, according to a Penn State sports radio show, which called on fans to “come out to show support for the Penn State players and coaches,” and lured fans to the early start with coffee and donuts.
Boosting morale could be essential for the team, which saw NCAA sanctions wipe out more than a decade’s worth of wins in the aftermath the scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse against 10 male victims.
The fear of attrition hangs over the football program as the NCAA has limited the number of scholarships it can offer, while also allowing current players to transfer should they choose to leave.
“It’s a crucial time for Penn State Football,” The Goon Show posted on its website, calling for Tuesday’s rally. “It’s up to you to show the players why they should stay at PSU.”
A handful of players are leaving or appear poised to, according to a local news report. A quarterback, Rob Bolden, got out of his scholarship over the weekend, Harrisburg Patriot News said, which also reported star tailback Silas Redd and kicker Anthony Fera appear to be mulling their options.
The pep rally’s organizers expect fans to take long trips to get to the campus in located between farmland and forest in central Pennsylvania, in hopes of healing some of the team’s injured pride.
“People are coming in from Virginia, northeast New Hampshire, all over the place,” organizer Erin O’Leary told CNN affiliate WGAL
“People want to support them. They know negativity, that’s not what we’re about,” Penn State supporter Jenn Schoch said to WGAL.
Vestiges of the Paterno legacy, once an enduring symbol of integrity and the university, vanished in the scandal, including his famous bronze statue in front of Beaver Stadium.
The NCAA slapped the school with a four-year postseason ban and imposed a $60 million sanction after investigators blamed top university leaders, including Paterno, for their “total and consistent disregard” of victims while a sexual predator lurked on campus.
Paterno’s official record dropped from 409 wins to 298, while the NCAA also struck down six bowl wins and two conference championships.
Tuesday’s team session is a workout. Penn State’s training camp officially kicks off on the sixth of August, according to the ‘Go PSU’ website.