STATE?COLLEGE?- It was called a "glitch," but Penn State conspiracy theorist fans didn't buy that answer Tuesday morning when they found out the school's merchandise was no longer being sold on the NCAA's official online store.
The website shopncaasports.com handles merchandise sales for the NCAA, and early Tuesday, it no longer included Penn State memorabilia. There are links to hundreds of schools on the website, but for a few hours, the links to Penn State gear vanished.
That set off a frenzy of social media activity, with some Nittany Lion fans proclaiming the situation was part of what they believe to be an ongoing bias by the NCAA against Penn State.
A customer service representative for the website told this reporter by phone at about 10:45 a.m., "As of today, the NCAA has taken all the Penn State merchandise off our website, so until we're further updated ... we don't know what's happening. They won't let exactly us know why. But it is off the site."
The customer service representative added that when she arrived at work, she received an email notifying her that the Penn State merchandise would not available. She was given no details why.
The website is owned by Fanatics Retail Group, and that company's vice president of communications, Meier Ravich, explained the situation shortly before 11 a.m.
"It's a technical glitch that's preventing the Penn State merchandise from appearing on the site," Ravich said. "They're working to get it back up. It should be up very shortly."
That indeed was the case, as the links to Penn State merchandise on the website were back up and operational shortly after noon.
Penn State fans are still angry over a blown call that cost the team a touchdown in Saturday's loss at Nebraska, and many of them still wanted to know: Was it really just a glitch, or did the NCAA actually try to remove Penn State from the website intentionally?
When contacted Tuesday afternoon, NCAA spokeswoman Emily Potter initially referred back to Ravich for a statement. Potter then said the NCAA would not be commenting on the issue.
"The statement that Meier issued is the statement there. We won't have any comment from there," said Potter, assistant director of public and media relations for the NCAA.
The website merchandise issue is merely the latest that some Penn State fans point at to back up their claim of bias against the school in light of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The outrage started with the NCAA levying unprecedented and severe sanctions against the football program in July.
Nittany Lion football coach Bill O'Brien tried to ease fans' concerns when asked about the perceived bias Tuesday.
"I would tell our fans that nobody is against Penn State; no one is against Penn State," O'Brien said. "Penn State is a very special university. Penn State has a very unique athletic department with 31 sports, some great coaches. Penn State is a place where you can receive a world-renowned education and choose from 100 different majors.
"Penn State has a football team this year that plays with extremely good effort, plays hard. Penn State has a senior class on this football team right here that to me will go down in the history of college football as one of the better senior classes of any college football team. At the end of the day, football is a sport played by guys that compete hard, and it's just a great team sport, and that's what it is, and nobody is against Penn State."