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. Mitch

    Take his name off the library, it is a disgrace.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • cnncommenter138

      Paterno donated money for the library and therefore bought the naming rights. nothing anyone can do about that, no matter which side you're on.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. What are they thinking?

    Tear the statue down? That place is so screwed up that the Trustees are still set on honoring Paterno's enhanced retirement deal – even though they fired him for cause. Paterno – Italian American catholic, go figure.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mitch

    Put the statue in the infamous showers.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. DK

    I hope the victims take psu for millions!

    July 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JusThinkn

    Agreed – but...suggestion: can we do the same for racist university presidents? there are several academic buildings branding the names of known oppressive administrators.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • harryhaller

      We can...as soon as students and alumni stop worshipping athletic programs and start paying attention to and expressing opposition to issues like the one you mention!

      July 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JohnB

    The only way to minimize the sad situations like PSU is to look at and change the perverse incentive structure of all parties involved – conference commissioners, school administrators, coaches, ADs, the NCAA, players, alumni, sports news networks, and even the professional athletic leagues. I believe a national-level commission convened by Congress with Presidential appointees is the only exterior type of structure that can examine the system and recommend statutory changes. Congress would then have an up-or-down vote with no amendments and ultimately a POTUS signature. This is the way to change things.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Shuffler

    Seems there may be more child molesters at penn state from some of those posts.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John Q

    PSU – Pedophile State University!

    July 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. R

    Good lord this is ridiculous! The man didn't do anything wrong. The creep that should be behind bars is! Not that I give two rips about foot ball, but cancelling the season and tearing down a statue? Seriously?

    July 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • bertha59

      Actually, Paterno did do something wrong. He did not report the abuse he knew of to the authorities. His position at the university may have made him legally liable to report what he knew.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • achepotler

      foots-ball

      July 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • ken

      The man didn't do anything wrong....you're being facetious right? You can't be that stupid...I mean really....lying to a grand jury, deliberately enabling a child molester, knowingly throwing kids to the wolf...nothing wrong with any of that? ok, what moral standards you must have.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samson

      May be he didn't do anything wrong. But he did not do the right thing he morally was supposed to.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bethany

    I wish the amount of energy put into determining whether a statue should be taken down at a football stadium was put into finding a solution to the human massacres in Syria #priorities

    July 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Safe in Texas

      Syria, or any middle east country for that matter, is not the problem of the people of the United States. We have meddled too much and our servicemembers are paying dearly for it.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • ken

      Anything to change the subject away for precious football coach...You Penn St. supporters continue to amaze...the continue lack of empathy for the horrific acts done those children all for the sake of your coach and your football. You make a case for tearing down the whole university..

      July 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bethany

      Ken, if you knew anything about Penn State you would know that there are so many wonderful things that the University does (consider THON the largest student philanthropy in the world raising over $75MM in research for pediatric cancer since the 1970's). So yes, I would like to take the vision away from football because it is only 3 months of the year while there are so many other things that occur on that campus for the other 9 months and University represents so much more. So yes, I am going to support Penn State the University and the students and alumni, do I support the "scandal" and any of the people that hid it from me and the rest of the PSU alumni and students, absolutely not.

      July 17, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. UCLA

    Take down the statue, all of the buildings and close the school.
    There was responsibility for this every where.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Lee

    Why worship anyone in public office via: painting a mural, erecting a statue while they are still alive.
    Public officials do this all the time build park's, plaza's, name library's or even erect statue to one another only to find out latter that the person was rotten to the core. It is an Idiot society we live in.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. PoBoy

    There are many punitive things that should happen to the University leadership, but the current players and coaches should not be held accountable for their actions. Let these kids play and at least keep your commitment to them even if you didn't for the victims!

    July 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • harryhaller

      They may not be responsible, but they ARE NOT KIDS. They are adults: they can vote and go to war. They are adults. Still, your reasoning is faulty. No one would ever be punished according to your logic. No prison for murderers because their children would lose the income from the parent? No suspended licenses for DWI because the children or neighbors or grandparents might lose transportation? It doesn't work that way.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bertha59

    I am not sure that deleting Paterno references at the university is the right thing to do. It would be like rewriting history.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • pzanga

      Rewriting history to make it more accurate/truthful is not necessarily a bad thing.

      July 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Miss Alice

    (Plane)

    July 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
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