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

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 “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. John

    Higher education would easily survive without a football team, or any sporting organization.

    July 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MCR

    If the program is suspended, yes students will be affected and will suffer, and will feel as if they're being punished for something they didn't do. That's collateral damage that comes as a result of Sandusky's crimes, and the school's coverup, and yes, that sucks.

    Bottom line, however, is that it sucks more for Sandusky's victims, and it always will.

    The school should indeed shut down the program, use the money allocated to the sports programs to instead provide mental health support for Sandusky's victims, and to help affected students transfer to other schools. Then, start a new program from scratch in a couple of years.

    This is about more than a school's pride, or a game. This is about the serious repercussions of the actions of a monster.

    July 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Akihito

    American Football Sucks anyway. Nasty game! And Penn State is a nobody among them.

    July 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. james648

    Everyone for keeping the PSU football program going, JUST CALM DOWN! The abuse of those small boys, the horror they endured, and the impact it will have on the rest of their lives is in no way near as important as PSU football. Doesn't come close! And even it you consider that the report found the 3 most powerful men at PSU could have done something to stop it when they learned of it... should not have any consideration either. Screw the victims and on with the program! You dumb idiots!

    July 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bill

    we are involved in 2 wars, there is a global economic crisis, crazy people are dominating the political sphere, and many are shouting that this country is in decline. who cares about some statue. Seriously, the guy who rented the plane must have an awesome life if that is his primary concern.

    July 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • MCR

      Maybe the guy who rented the plane is one of Sandusky's victims, and his life isn't awesome.

      July 17, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ddblah

    Not sure what you are arguing. sure sound passionate. Hope the students have the same passion for the victims, not just their favorite sports or sportsman. PATHETIC, PSU!

    July 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Vasya Bricklyn

    We need to eradicate the Penn State Kiddiefiddlers. Removing their "legacy" isn't enough. Perhaps the lawsuits to follow will.

    July 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sandiegobeachbum

    Tearing down the statue is the biggest NO Brainer I have ever heard of! The Paterno family is a bunch of buffoons and are in TOTAL denial. Face the facts, idiots, Paterno was only interested in his precious football program. Like Freed said, no gave a DAMN about the poor, INNOCENT victims. The hell with any PS alumnus who still supports Paterno. He is a disgrace and the statue should have already come down. If anyonme in the Paterno family had half a brain, he/she would apologize for their unethical, immoral father/husband not doing anything to help the victims.

    July 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jill

    I am a current Penn State Senior student and we will care if they shut our football program down. It is part of our culture like it or not and is not the reason this happened. The players and our new coach are not the ones that committed those acts that Jerry Sandusky did. We are just as upset and outraged as everyone to hear what this evil man has done. The 40,000 committed students that go to this university did not receive a note attached to our exceptance letters stating that "by the way there is huge secret we are going to tell you when you arrive." If one person could explain why this has anything to do with Penn State Football 2012 I would love to hear your opionion.

    July 17, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Will

      Its simple. The organization... ie the athletic dept. at Penn State did know. They need to be punished severely so that they and ALL other athletic programs know this will not be tolerated. Find a way to do that effectively enough to get the message across that doesnt impact the students somehow and you will be smarter than most of us.

      As for the argument that punishing them is punishing the students is akin to telling a murderer he is not going to prison b/c he has 10 kids and is the sole breadwinner in the family. No one wishes ill on the students, but the program and culture that allowed this to happen needs to be punished severely. A slap on the wrist and a statement saying they are sorry isn't going to cut it.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buckee

      Is abusing kids part of your culture too ????????

      July 17, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • timmy

      I find it hilarious that you are a senior at Penn State and called it an "exceptance" letter!!!! This just shows where Penn States priorities are.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buckee

      Go jump in the lake - jockomania is headed on the way out.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Courtney

      Good thing they teach proper English at PSU....exceptance?! Thank God I went to a college that focused on academia and not football.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buckee

      Good luck getting a job.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • @jill

      Jill your culture is sick. A university should be a place of learning, not the home of a semi-professional sports team. Obsessing over a football team is what caused this tragedy. Unless you change your perspective, things like this will continue to happen.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Old96er

      My heart goes out to you, Jill. My years at Penn State were some of the best of my life and athletics were a big part of that. But this is the single worst "scandal" (I hate that word but can't think of a better one right now) to occur at any university in our country. Ever. Penn State needs to make a big statement to atone for its sins. It needs to sacrifice something to show that the culture has changed. Out of respect for the victims they should cancel the 2012 season. And they should do it before the NCAA tells them to.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Tunc

      It is more than Jerry Sandusky, there is a huge cover up on the part of directors and the whole program should be shut down... Football cant be more important than the lives of those poor innocent kids... They should be made an example for many generations... Make the wrong choices and the whole program is GONE !! I have no pity...

      July 17, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • I is edumaated at Penn State

      "exceptance" letter? That about sums things up at Penn State.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Silywalx

      Because it is the culture of worhipping these "men" that enabled them to get away with harming all those children or cover up their abuse. Suck it up, take the year to concentrate on your studies.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • zometimer

      Because your football program fueled a pedophile with its secrecy and elitism. It was on your exceptance letter.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Verow75

      Besides your grammatical errors, your memory is bad too. Paterno ran that University as if he was the boss. For years his athletes were committing serious crimes. I am not talking about silly "boys will be boys" pranks. All in the name of football, he kept it hush, hush. His legacy will be now tarnished due to his egotistical persona. Even in his last letter, he never showed any compassion for those children. The only thing he could focus on was: FOOTBALL.

      July 17, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • ajbuff

      Agreed. Punish the perpetrators and not all the students who could have played football or attended college elsewhere but went there with no knowledge of the criminal acts. If a Congressman committed a crime would we say no more representatives from that state or party? No, we would punish those who were involved in the action. Why would you punish people who had nothing to do with this and just happened to be there when it was going on behind closed doors (the students and the program)? The Paterno statute is a different matter, but don't blame the program in general. (I could not care less about football in general, so this is not coming from a football fan....)

      July 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • portia2708

      Dear Jill: You answered your own question with your second sentence..."It is part of our culture..." That is WHY this happened and until that "culture" is taken down, it most likely would happen again. It is because of the Penn State football culture that this abomination was able to happen and continue to go on for decades. It is very sad that many have to suffer for what a few did, but that is life. Many innocent people are killed everyday because of the deeds of others and few people complain about it. The football program at Penn State brings in too much money for it not to have an effect on the way things are handled by those in power. I am a PA tax payer and lifelong resident and I am disgusted by what happened and never want it to be able to happen again and the only way I think that might not happen is for Penn State's football program to be shut down for several years...sorry, for your loss, but too many INNOCENT children suffered that need to SEE that you and Penn State care more about them than a GAME

      July 17, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Genius007

      Jill, I hope you figure out, in your senior year, that you should use the word "acceptance" instead.

      July 17, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • CTYank

      You've got a lot of learning in front of you, apparently. Such a corrupt organization really needs to be recycled. You'll have to adapt to whatever happens, sorry. In fairness, a nuclear option would be appropriate.
      Please define "exceptance." (I'm assuming that you have already had some mandatory English classes.)

      July 17, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lillian

      Jill, I believe you when you say that YOU, and probably the other students you are friends with, are upset by Joe Paterno's complicity in covering up Sandusky's molestation of young boys. However, many Penn State fans, as well as the students who protested on campus, have made clear that they could care less that Joe Paterno helped hide Sandusky's wretched crimes. They are the ones destroying your school's football program. You and your friends need to keep speaking out and being loud – be louder than the idiots who act like Joe Paterno did nothing wrong, the ones who ignore the evidence that he hid Sandusky's crimes. Don't let them get away with giving your school's football program a bad name.

      July 17, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Will

    Tbh Penn State would be best off to remove all Paterno references from their program, statues included. The other option is they can see this hang over them for many more years.

    As for the people saying stopping the football program for a year would be punishing the entire campus thats not exactly accurate. How do you punish an organization that has done wrong? Clearly Penn State has done wrong here and should be punished. If they were smart they would get to the business of righting the wrongs committed by finding out who was harmed and making sure they are looked after AND they would get rid of anything that seems to honor the men involved in this.

    I personally dont think Paterno was a bad man, but he clearly wasn't a good man in regards to this issue. Should this stain on his reputation tarnish his memory? Many will say yes, and many will say know, but I think both sides would best off reaching the middle ground. Remove the hero worship stuff and remember him for his good football, but also remember that even a person like him can make terribly bad decisions.

    Should Penn State continue to stick to honoring this guy then I think the NCAA has a responsibility to humble Penn State a bit by removing their football program for a year or forcing them to give up their football revenues for a few years. Penn State is an organization that has done wrong and must atone for it. Hopefully they do it without having outside forces step in any further.

    July 17, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Penn State, the athletic conference they are in and the NCAA stand to lose to much $$ by canceling even just one year of football. So I would not expect to see that happen. What I don't quite get however is that people seem to think that the "football above all else culture" is just a Penn State thing. It is not. It is pervasive.

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

    The Freeh Report contradicts its own evidence, is based on incomplete research (e.g. failure to interview McQueary, failure to assign any responsibility to then-Attorney General Corbett, the 2nd Mile, or the PA Department of Public Welfare–the latter was supposed to have told the 2nd Mile about the 1998 investigation). I would say it has marred the Freeh brand name seriously, to the extent that I would not hire it for any purpose.

    There are also very serious questions about Freeh himself, who was implicated in a cover-up of bad forensic work at the FBI, and who for whatever reason had to leave his FBI post two years early. This work product of his group simply reinforces that perception further.

    July 17, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. kdf

    I am all for standing up for the kids, but....
    first, too many of you have too much time on your hands if you are going to fly a plane all day around the campus with a sign at the back, or making threats to others (yea, cause that is going to fix the problem) or continuously blaming a dead man (cause so many things can happen to him now). I think too many have forgotten the issue at hand. There was ONE man doing wrong to many KIDS. Issue and story is all about ONE MAN and MANY KIDS!

    July 17, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cyprustree

      But it's not just about ONE MAN. There were several men in positions of power, who not only knew about, but 'enabled' the behavior to continue. The Board of Trustees failed to do their jobs as well. So no, you can't put all of this on one man, because many others are involved. None of the members of the Board plan to resign – they'll just go on their merry way when every single one of them should be fired. Again, many players here.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • portia2708

      NO, it was NOT just one was only one man until others knew and then they all become part of the abuse...period...anyone who doesn't think that all those men didn't bear some responsibility had NO business working in the field of education...they became Sandusky's helpers the moment they knew and CHOSE to do nothing....STOP PAYING HOMAGE TO A GAME

      July 17, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cyprustree

    The statue should come down. Immediately. Penn State needs to learn that the welfare of children is far more important than football. I'd also like to see them not be allowed to play this coming season. Maybe then this college can focus on what is supposed to be the primary purpose, which is to educate the students, not win football games!

    July 17, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ellen

    Stupid statue should've been taken down the day the Freeh report came out. Can't happen fast enough for me.

    July 17, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Tunc

      well said...

      July 17, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Pixie Hibberd

    Beaver Stadium! Had Sandusky paid more attention to the one he had at!

    July 17, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
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