NEW: Silas Redd is leaving Penn State's Nittany Lions
NEW: The star tailback racked up five consecutive 100-yard games last year
Fans gathered before sunrise Tuesday to chant in support of the Penn State team
The NCAA hit the school with sanctions including a loss of football scholarships
Silas Redd, who last year racked up five consecutive 100-yard games as tailback for Penn State’s Nittany Lions, is leaving the troubled team to head west.
“We welcome Silas Redd to the Trojan Family,” said the University of Southern California’s athletic director, Pat Haden, in a statement on Tuesday. “He is an outstanding student and athlete.”
The 5-foot, 10-inch, 200-pound junior from Norwalk, Connecticut, gained 1,241 rushing yards in his sophomore season, the 10th-highest total in Penn State history.
His departure could heighten a fear of attrition that was already hanging over Penn State’s football program in the wake of a child sex abuse scandal and as the NCAA has limited the number of scholarships it can offer while allowing current players to transfer.
The Harrisburg Patriot News had reported that Redd was only one of a handful of players who were planning to leave.
His transfer was announced on the same day that Penn State’s football team returned for a preseason workout as it heads into its first season in decades without head coach Joe Paterno, who died in January during the sex abuse scandal.
Fans, many dressed in the school’s royal blue and white and holding signs of support, greeted athletes arriving for the 7 a.m. workout with chants of “For the team!” and “PSU!”
“It’s a crucial time for Penn State Football,” a university sports radio broadcast called “The Goon Show” posted days before on its website in its call to Tuesday’s rally. “It’s up to you to show the players why they should stay at PSU.”
The fans, who belted out support for Bill O’Brien, Penn State’s new head football coach, numbered in the hundreds, CNN affiliate broadcaster WGAL said.
Such morale boosters could prove key to the team, which saw NCAA sanctions wipe out more than a decade’s worth of wins after the scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse against 10 boys.
Vestiges of Paterno, including his bronze statute in front of Beaver Stadium, vanished amid the scandal.
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 showing “total and consistent disregard” for 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.
“We’re not giving up on them,” said Don Smith, a longtime fan. “What happened was unfortunate, but we’re going to come back. Penn State is going to come back stronger than ever.”
Penn State’s training camp officially kicks off on August 6. So does USC’s.
CNN’s Jill Martin and Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.