The iconic statue of Joe Paterno was removed from outside Penn State University’s football stadium on Sunday, removing what had become, for fans of the late head coach, a symbol of his central role on campus and, for critics, a constant reminder of the worst crisis in the university’s history.
The statue was promptly removed and wrapped in shrink wrap before being covered by a blue tarp. The structure was transported by forklift inside Beaver Stadium, the home of Penn State football since 1960.
University President Rodney Erickson released a statement early Sunday, explaining his decision to remove the statue of Penn State’s beloved Hall of Fame football coach.
“(The statue) became a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our university. For that reason, I have decided that it is in the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue and store it in a secure location, I believe that were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse.”
University officials have not yet identified where the statue would be permanently held after its removal.
Erickson’s decision came the same day that the NCAA announced it would unveil “corrective and punitive” measures against the university on Monday. Though association officials declined to elaborate Sunday, ESPN quoted an anonymous source saying the sanctions included a significant loss of scholarships and ability to participate in several bowl games.
Paterno’s 7-foot-tall, 900-pound statue had become a flash point in recent days, after the findings of an internal university investigation suggested that Paterno and several top administrators conspired for more than a decade to cover up allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
According to the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, Paterno helped shape the university’s reaction to at least two abuse allegations – the first in 1998 and another in 2001. In the latter, university officials opted not to notify outside authorities for fear of bad publicity, Freeh said.
Paterno’s family has strongly criticized Freeh’s conclusions and vowed to launch their own investigation. They have openly and publicly criticized the decision to remove the statue.
Paterno, who led the university to two national championships during his 60-year coaching career, earned a reputation for putting integrity and academics ahead of athletic accomplishments. He was also a generous donor, giving more than $9 million to the university over the course of his life.
Several buildings on campus, including the library and a Catholic student center, are named after him or his wife, Sue. Those will remain, Erickson said.