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. Ben

    None of this goes far enough. The football program itself should go. Penn State could even explore the new, unique, and radical prospect of operating A UNIVERSITY instead of an NFL farm team.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Mckeown

      absolutely! University's priorities need to refocus to education and research, especially in the sciences. There is nothing wrong with sports, but massive football stadiums don't help the players or the sport, they are just increase the spectating. Shift the money back to the student's by lowering their cost of tuition and make college education affordable again.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • samuraikatana1

      Oh yeah, one of Penn State's most lucrative sources of income should just disappear because you want it to. You are living planet Earth right?

      July 17, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keithlol

      I think you are severely underestimating how much revenue a typical college football team generates. Many universities rely on them to cover footballs own expenses, but also the expenses of every sports program the college offers.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      That's kind of my point, Keith. Universities don't need sports – they're supposed to be for education. Giving any priority whatsoever to athletics at a university is like a state spending most of its highway budget to build an amusement park- a ridiculous thing to do, and missing the point of the exercise in spectacular fashion. Get rid of it all. If the students want to play football, let them start a club and sell some brownies, and it had better not affect their studies.

      July 17, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Laszlo

    Hey,you NEVER heard Gary Glitter's "Rock N Roll part 2" at ANY Penn State game .All you High horse Vigilantes remember that.Extremly Sad this happened,especially because I go out of my way to defend Children,thateveryone who blames Football,also cries that our Children are obese.You can't have it both ways,send your Kids out to Play,then Sue the town cause your Kid got hurt PLAYING!!!!!

    July 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bonkers

    sandusky will be molested just like the children he heinously punished, get ready to meet BUBBA ! your gonna like prison for the next 40 years. let's hope it's not federal prison, which is a joke

    July 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SkiOne

    Just don't tear it down, replace it with a memorial honoring the victims.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ryan

    Why didn't he intervene? I just don't understand.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nathan

    I think cancelling the season goes too far. That punishes too many people who are innocent of any wrongdoing.

    I do think it would be wise and appropriate to remove the statue and Paterno's name from campus features.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bonkers

    I agree – the football program should go.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mistylynn

    Tim in America, I agree with your post. Very well said. Very sad, but true.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. NFLD thought

    Statue should go immediately; as for the football program, it should stay but with a completely revised set of rules.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. citizenUSA

    Sounds like "The Ten Commandments", "let his name be stircken from all tablots and temples..." So it shall be written, so it shall be done!

    July 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chaos

    Paterno supporters are loathsome and pathetic. An embarrassment to the school and themselves.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Stevi

    How sad is it that people are blaming this man on the crimes of another. Joe did everything he could do. Records have proved he went to the school board and told them, he filed reports, he did right in this situation. What was he supposed to do, commit murder? Would that have been the right thing? Or would you all complain that Sandusky should have faced the justice system. The head hanchos at the school are the ones who need to be taken out. This poor man died of a broken heart. R.I.P.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • dl knowles

      What he did not do was report a crime to the proper police agency. Nothing in law says report it to your superiors so they can decide whether to cover the crime up and protect the school. The man failed these children who were being preyed upon to protect his job and his precious football program. Had he immediately reported the crime this would have been a footnote in Penn State History.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • HZD

      Oh, I don't know, maybe he could have, like, GONE TO THE POLICE. Maybe he should have decided that protecting the lives of innocent kids was more important than preserving the reputation of his football program. Ironically, the football program will carry this blight around with their name for decades, which probably would not be the case if Paterno had turned his friend in when he found out about this.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • CC

      Well you see, I read the report and he didn't do all he could. He went to the higher ups. Maybe the police should have been involved? I know they wrote a report on him in 1998 or 1999. But if the head coach shows up and says "get rid of this guy and throw him in the slammer". Which is what should have happened.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joe Zamecki

    Until the statue is removed, how about disposing of rotten eggs on it? Gotta think creatively.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Holdupaminute

    Seems like a threat. I'd like to see a group try and remove the statue. It must weigh tons. It would require a truck and tractor, which at no time could pull up and take it without being noticed. Just saying, it's an empty threat. Honestly, I think that they should just turn the statue backwards. That would best represent JoePa.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sivick

    If they don't pull themselves out of the season the NCAA should ban them until the leadership at the school that allowed this to happen is completely replaced. Unacceptable.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
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