Airborne banner: Take down Paterno statue
A plane carries a banner reading "Take the Statue Down or We Will" above the Penn State campus on Tuesday.
July 17th, 2012
12:21 PM ET

Airborne banner: Take down Paterno statue

A small plane flew around the Penn State campus on Tuesday carrying a banner that read, "Take the Statue Down or We Will," a reference to the statue of former head football coach Joe Paterno that sits outside Beaver Stadium.

The statue is among many vestiges left from Paterno's 46 years as head coach of the Nittany Lions, a run that ended in disgrace in November when he was fired in the wake of a sex abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

"I'm a Penn State employee that thinks we have failed miserably, and I'm sad for the damage that has been done, but this is just upsetting," Diane Farley, a PSU alumnus who spotted the plane on Tuesday told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. "It's just stirring up everything."

Many people are calling for the Paterno statue to be torn down.

In an ESPN poll, more than 60% of respondents said the statue should be removed immediately or sometime before the 2012 football season commences.

A Penn State student group eliminated another Paterno vestige on Monday, renaming the encampment where students line up overnight to get the best seats for football games, from Paternoville to Nittanyville.

The action comes after a report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh last week that found that several school officials had "empowered" Sandusky to continue sexually abusing minors. Paterno could have stopped the attacks had he done more, Freeh concluded.

Sandusky was convicted last month of sexually abusing children over 15 years, with much of the abuse occurring on the Penn State campus. He is awaiting sentencing.

Paterno died of lung cancer in January at the age of 85, two months after he was fired because of the Sandusky scandal.

In his 46 years as head coach at Penn State, Paterno achieved mythic status. But with the release of the Freeh report, many no longer want the symbols of that status, including the name of the encampment, to have such prominence in the university community.

"Now, it's a new era of Nittany Lion football," Troy Weller, a Penn State senior and president of the newly retitled Nittanyville Coordination Committee, said in a statement Monday. "And by changing the name to Nittanyville we want to return the focus to the overall team and the thousands of students who support it."

Students camp out in "Paternoville," outside Beaver Stadium, in November.

The organization's vice president, Jeff Lowe, said it couldn't function properly while still associated with the Paterno name.

"The idea of being in the middle of a political war over the name, due to our association with Joe Paterno, has lead to threats, hate mail and efforts from people outside of Penn State to try and ruin our ability to run an effective organization," Lowe told StateCollege.com.

Reaction to the announcement on the committee's Facebook page was swift and combative on both sides the argument.

"Another idiotic move by stupid people. For the student leaders that made this decision, do us all a favor and transfer. Cowards," wrote Bob Fetrow.

"This is pathetic," wrote Janessa Bednash. "Read the report. There is no evidence to determine Joe had a hand in covering this up.

"You're a disgrace to all that truly are Penn State. Joe Paterno included," Bednash scolded the Nittanyville committee.

"If you believe in the legacy (Paterno) left in the thousands of students he influenced both on and off the field then do not disgrace his name. You are a part of this college you should be defending him," said David Eberly.

Many predicted that the camp would see fewer students with the name change.

"Paternoville is officially dead. Don't be upset when 3 people show up at the first game and it goes downhill from there," wrote Chris Sheedy.

"I don't think you guys are going to get hardly any campers this year because of this. The organization will cease to exist in a matter of a couple of years," Bud Parks wrote.

Supporters of the move responded just as quickly, praising the organization and ripping its detractors.

"This organization has proven that it can do the right thing in the face of adversity. Unlike a certain former head coach that so many people are attempting to protect," wrote Skip Bishop.

"I'm glad the people running this page had the courage to change its name. They may be the only people at your university with any integrity," Will Teague said.

Others said the name change was not enough.

"Paterno was a villain, not a hero. His name is a blight - remove it from EVERYTHING," wrote Ben Stuenkel.

Some entities outside the university are doing just that.

Brown University in Rhode Island pulled the name of Paterno, an alumnus, from its outstanding male freshman athlete award.

"Since 1991, the Department of Athletics and Physical Education has presented an award to the year's outstanding male freshman athlete. In 1993 the Department of Athletics and Physical Education renamed the award to honor Joe Paterno," a statement from the school said. "In the spring of 2012, the Department of Athletics presented the award as it was originally created, honoring the year's outstanding male freshman athlete without Joe Paterno's name attached. The director of Athletics has now recommended and the University has approved the decision to remove permanently the Paterno name from the award. Past recipients will be informed of the decision to eliminate the name from the award."

Nike announced last week that a child care center at its Beaverton, Oregon, headquarters would no longer bear Paterno's name.

And a mural of Paterno in the gym of a Connecticut middle school will be painted over, the Connecticut Post reported.

And, of course, there are the calls to tear down the Paterno statue.

And some are questioning whether that season should commence at all, calling on the university to cancel the season or the NCAA to stop the school from playing.

Some experts are saying the school must do something drastic such as canceling the season to restore its good name.

“I can’t see any other action that shows that great intersection of wanting to do better - introspection, remorse, pain, leadership, humanity, empathy - in its real sense,” Dan Lebowitz, executive director of Northeastern University’s Sport and Society program, told InsideHigherEd.com. “If they’re hoping for football to return to prominence, wouldn’t they want it also under a cleansed brand?”

More on Paterno in wake of scandal:

Paterno defended program in letter before his death

The woman who stood up to Paterno

Story of football hero recast

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Filed under: College football • Crime • Football • Jerry Sandusky • Joe Paterno • Justice • Penn State • Pennsylvania • Sports
soundoff (520 Responses)
  1. Tom

    PACK A LUNCH!! BRING FIRENDS!!

    I got a .44 magnum that says YOU WON'T!!

    July 18, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Delaware Dennis

    This should not even be a question it is proof PSU does not get it . Sad.

    July 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Carol Green

    Please melt down the Paterno statue and re-mold a plaque that lists the phone numbers of child protective services, the police department, university police, university president, all university board members, sheriff's office, public prosecutors, mental health department, and support groups. At the top of the plaque should be a thorough statement from the university portraying deep remorse, admission of the lack of rapid response and prosecution of Sandusky, acknowledgment of guilt in years of secrecy and protection of the silent accomplices, all the names of aware professionals who did not report the crimes in a timely manner, and how to report such crimes. It should acknowledge university culpability and make a pledge to enforce prosecution, educate the public, and vigilantly protect children regarding pedophilia and reporting the crime. It should express the hope that the victims of the crime will heal and state how the university will help them. This should be a permanent memorial to the suffering of the past and present, and a cautionary memorial for centuries well into the future. Included in the statement should be the fact that the bronze used for the plaque was from the rendering of Paterno's statue.
    --Retired California Teacher, 64

    July 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ted

    We have a lot of demolishing to do over in Greece....

    July 21, 2012 at 12:46 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. SMaj

    Grab your pitchforks and torches, its good ole fashioned mob justice! Far too many people who have no official connection to these events are foaming at the mouth, decrying a man whose death leaves only conjecture as to the level of his knowledge of these events. As an alumnus I support the decision to move or remove the statue (I always thought it was pompous anyway) but the people who are responsible for the banner, as well as the pilot who flew it, should face charges for making those threats. If you're not a member of the PSU community, i.e. faculty, staff, student or alumni, then take the witch hunt down a notch. Punishing an entire university for actions of a few taken before most of the current student body was even in high school is excessively punitive. Condemnation is certainly warranted but the fever pitch only causes these wounds to fester and hampers the healing process for all.

    July 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chuck

      We got punished due to a football player getting a loan from someone not even connected to the University of Washington or pro sports. I think the death penalty for the football program should have been enforced.

      July 23, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
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    August 4, 2012 at 6:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
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