Photo via Getty Images
Work crews removed the 7-foot tall, 900-pound bronze statue of former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno Sunday morning. It took just 40 minutes.
Kevin Berkon, 23, of Washington, D.C., and Mike Elliott, 23, of Lancaster, camped out at the statue since Tuesday. They were some of the only Penn State students at the scene.
“I’m extremely disappointed with how they are doing it,” Berkon told the Centre Daily Times. “JoePa means the world to a lot of students, and they should have a right to be here.”
Bystanders took photos, video and tweeted descriptions of the scene.
Susan Lamey, of State College was visibly upset. She said Paterno did not deserve to be the scapegoat of the Sandusky scandal.
“It’s just another crime being committed,” Lamey said. “It’s just like what they want to do with the football team. They keep punishing the innocent. This is not solving the problem. This doesn’t fix anything.”
Penn State President Rodney Erickson made the decision to remove the statue and released the following statement:
“I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno’s statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond,” Erickson said. “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.”
Erickson’s decision to remove the statue comes in the wake of an investigative report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.
Freeh determined that the late coach and three top Penn State administrators, concealed the abuse claims against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky more than a decade ago in order to shield the university and its football program from negative publicity.
That allegation of a cover-up by Paterno, ex-President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz, allowed Sandusky to continue molesting young boys. Sandusky was convicted last month of 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys.
The Paterno family issued a statement a few hours after the statue was removed.
“Tearing down the statue of Joe Paterno does not serve the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s horrible crimes or help heal the Penn State Community,” Paterno’s family said. “We believe the only way to help the victims is to uncover the full truth. The Freeh report, though it has been accepted by the media as the definitive conclusion on the Sandusky scandal, is the equivalent of an indictment —a charging document written by a prosecutor — and an incomplete and unofficial one at that.”
Meantime, Erickson said Paterno’s name will remain on the campus library because it “symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University.”
Hundreds of people visited the statue Saturday. They posed for pictures by it knowing it might be the last time they saw it standing.
The NCAA will announce “unprecedented penalties” against Penn State during a news conference Monday morning.