Paterno Statue Comes Down, Sanctions Coming
The famed statue of Penn State coach Joe Paterno has been taken down from outside the football stadium.
Workers lifted the statue off its base and used a forklift to move it into Beaver Stadium early this morning as the 100 to 150 students watching chanted, "We are Penn State."
PREVIOUS: Penn State Child Abuse
Penn State employees at dawn began the process of removing the statue according to the Centre Daily Times. Workers surrounded the statue with fence and blue tarp as the work got underway.
The family of the late coach says the removal of his statue "does not serve the victims" of the sex abuse scandal that has engulfed the university.
Students and supporters earlier in the week set up tents around the statue to guard it from removal.
NCAA SANCTIONS COMING MONDAY
The NCAA says it will levy "corrective and punitive measures" against Penn State in the wake of the child sex-abuse scandal involving former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
The NCAA announced Sunday that it will detail the sanctions on Monday. It disclosed no details, saying only that NCAA President Mark Emmert and Ed Ray, the chairman of the NCAA's executive committee and Oregon State's president, will be at the news conference.
Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of 45 criminal counts for abusing 10 boys over a number of years. A report commissioned by Penn State found that coach Joe Paterno and other school leaders had helped cover up allegations against Sandusky.
Emmert has not ruled out the possibility of shutting down the Penn State football program in the wake of the scandal, adding that he had "never seen anything as egregious."
The university said Sunday that it will take down the larger-than-life monument in the face of an investigative report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that found the late coach, along with three top Penn State administrators, concealed the abuse claims against Jerry Sandusky more than a decade ago in order to shield the university and its football program from negative publicity.
Construction vehicles and police arrived shortly after dawn Sunday, barricading the street and sidewalks near the statue, erecting a chain-link fence then concealing the statue with a blue tarp.
The bronze sculpture outside Beaver Stadium has been a rallying point for students and alumni outraged over Paterno's firing four days after Sandusky's Nov. 5 arrest — and grief-stricken over the Hall of Fame coach's Jan. 22 death at age 85.
But it turned into a target for critics after the Freeh report's stunning allegation of a cover-up by Paterno, ousted President Graham Spanier and two Penn State officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz. Their failure to report Sandusky to child-welfare authorities in 2001 allowed him to continue molesting boys, the report found.
Paterno's family, along with attorneys for Spanier, Curley and Schultz, vehemently deny any suggestion they protected a pedophile. Curley and Schultz await trial on charges of failing to report child abuse and lying to a grand jury but maintain their innocence. Spanier hasn't been charged. Sandusky was convicted last month of 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys.
Some newspaper columnists and former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden have said the statue should be taken down, while a small plane pulled a banner over State College reading, "Take the statue down or we will."
But Paterno still has plenty of fans, and Penn State's decision to remove the monument won't sit well with them. One student even vowed to "chain myself to that statue" if there was an attempt to remove it.
University officials had called the issue a sensitive one in light of Paterno's enormous contributions to the school over a 61-year coaching career. The Paterno family is well-known in the community for philanthropic efforts, including the millions of dollars they've donated to the university to help build a library and fund endowments and scholarships.
The statue, nearly 7 feet tall and weighing more than 900 pounds, was built in 2001 in honor of Paterno's record-setting 324th Division 1 coaching victory and his "contributions to the university."
STATEMENT FROM PENN STATE President Rodney Erikson
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 (u)niversity and beyond. 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."
STATEMENT FROM JOE PATERNO'S FAMILY
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. 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.
To those who truly want to know the truth about Sandusky, it should matter that Joe Paterno has never had a hearing; that his legal counsel has never been able to interview key witnesses, all of whom are represented by lawyers and therefore unavailable; that there has never been an opportunity to review critical evidence which has not been made public; that selective evidence and the opinion of Mr Freeh is treated as the equivalent of a fair trial. Despite this obviously flawed and one-sided presentation, the University believes it must acquiesce and accept that Joe Paterno has been given a fair and complete hearing. We think the better course would have been for the University to take a strong stand in support of due process so that the complete truth can be uncovered.
It is not the University's responsibility to defend or protect Joe Paterno. But they at least should have acknowledged that important legal cases are still pending and that the record on Joe Paterno, the Board and other key players is far from complete.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.