July 18th, 2012
12:40 PM ET

Penn State: Paterno statue decision due in days

A decision will be made on the future status of the embattled statue of former head football coach Joe Paterno "within seven to 10 days," Penn State spokesman David La Torre told CNN on Wednesday.

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 Paterno 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 (616 Responses)
  1. jan wheeler

    Paterno has disgraced the University and football. Tear down that statue. Stop deifying this man.

    July 18, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erik

      That's right, Jan!

      July 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. heirog

    As a father of a 8-year-old girl and a PennState alumnus, I agree wholeheartedly that it be removed. Actually that is fair to Paterno too, because the first thing that the statue can remind me is Jerry and the victimized kids, not the football.

    July 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. David N.

    Leave the statue. Coach P. had a long legacy of good also. Add a plaque to remind people that he had a significant failing in protecting the children and values he once held in high esteem. Use the plaque as a teaching tool/moment as a reminder for the future. Each person should be careful about judging others. If we want to judge so quickly start with ourselves.

    July 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    While there is no denying his success as a football coach, Paterno's actions as a human being have now been proven to be less than exemplary.
    Celebrating the success of the TEAM, not a man, can easily be replaced by a plaque. When the actions of the man, or men in this case, are being considered tolerable because one was a football coach, it really speaks volumes for the priorities of the people.
    A statue of a man who had the chance to stop horrible actions of another horrible person should not remain. Statues are representations of great men. Paterno's legacy as a human being has been forever tarnished, and the statue should be melted down and re-cast into something representing a new beginning, to remind people that there are more important factors in life which are greater than football.

    July 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. A

    I just love how Penn State wants to tear this statue down because it "reminds" them of this whole ordeal. There were many people involved with covering up this scandal over many years. I think the statue should stay. It should serve as a reminder to Penn State's greed and ultimate quest for fame and glory above protecting children and doing what was right. Paterno's number one gesture even signifies that Penn State looked out for number one, looked out for themselves, the school, the athletes, their careers, Paterno's, Sandusky's enjoyment, what was right for everything but the doing right. No, the statue should remain and blind those who are disgusted with the decisions they allowed to remain in place. Whether Penn State agrees or not, Paterno does not deserve all the blame here, but of course they were not willing to say this when he was alive. Penn State were cowards then, and justifying the removal of this statue indicates they are still willing to justify their years of shifting the blame to yet another person.

    July 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. An Outsider

    Since members of the PSU administration also knew about Sandusky's actions and chose not to do anything, maybe the entire school should be torn down and not just Joe Pa's statue!

    July 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Paul R.

    A statue will seem oddly out of place after the NCAA kills the program and the DOE looks into revoking Penn State's charter.

    July 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ERH

    If you are going to clean house, clean house and start new. Otherwise you leave things to tarnish the University.

    July 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. noteabags

    Stop punishing the students and alumni of Penn State because of the actions of one man.

    July 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bb

    He was always creepy looking. Same with Sanduky and the ginger coach that ratted him out, they are all guilty,
    tear down the statue and close the football program till the end of the world, what a bunch of creeps

    July 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Josh

    The Paterno statue shows him with this finger all ready to do a "prostate exam" on the little boys.

    How fitting.

    July 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Steve

    Lock the statue in Sandusky's jail cell

    July 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Marvs257

    Not a big deal. Just remove it. It's such a distraction, and there's really no point on defending a statue. Change it to memorial for child abuse victims everywhere.
    People defending Paterno say 2 things: "Don't judge people by their worst actions" and "Paterno is only human, not God".
    To reply to the first quote, Paterno's worst action is actually very severe, and much much worse than any average person's worst action. So yes, it may eclipse his many years of accomplishments.
    To reply to the second quote, Paterno is human, yes, but I am human too, and so are everyone of us. None of us are Gods. But being human doesn't mean it's an excuse to do what he did.

    July 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. kyle

    i could see if Paterno was the molestor to tear down the statue, however, he wasn't. Yes, he hid it so it would not tarnish the name of the football program, however, if we take it back a decade we would say fire him for hiring him in the first place, now everyone just cries he didn't do anything. He gave 46 years to the team and made it one of the best. this one incident should destroy one of the careers of a great legacy. People need to just let it go, Sandusky was the main criminal, and he is facing his due punishment

    July 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marvs257

      I agree that I'm glad Sandusky is serving his punishment and will spend the rest of his life in jail.
      I think regarding the statue, it's not about putting the blame on Paterno as much as restoring the public faith and the image of the university. Leaving it up is such a distraction, and by taking it down signals that Penn State is willing to do whatever necessary to repair its reputation.
      From a Public Relation perspective, doing this, and also shutting down the football program for a year, is the best course of action. This is PR 101. This is very much about the university, because the top 4 senior officials helped cover this up. What does that say about how the rest of the university works? Is lack of oversight happening in other deparments too? These are the questions parents ask when they send their kids to college.

      July 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      It was Paterno who choose to destroy his own carrier. To destroy his own reputation.

      And in the end, that is what his family has to learn to accept.

      July 18, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • scmaize

      I totally agree, Kyle. I doubt Paterno even felt that he was "hiding" anything. He probably refused to believe Sandusky was guilty. If he didn't believe he was guilty, there was no need to do anything. He did pass it along to his AD and VP. Of course, what he did was insufficient. He came to realize that at the end of his life, and obviously regretted it when it was too late. His refusal to take the reports seriously and press for resolution will tarnish his legacy. He was still a great football coach who had many good qualities, and faults we all see now. He's not the only one with faults, and Sandusky is the criminal who finally faces prosecution. Paterno devoted his life to Penn State, and he earned the statue. Understandably, it will take years to put the good and the bad into perspective.

      July 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Kyle – This is one of the worst arguments I think I have ever heard. I would ask that you consider if this is how you would feel if you had a child that was molested by Sandusky, and it was ten years after Paterno was aware he was a child molester and chose not to do everything he could to ensure it stopped. Most people that support Paterno fail to see what his actions meant to every one of the victims molested by Sandusky after Paterno was aware of the issue.

      July 18, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bb

    It wasnt one man it was a bunch of creepy sickos , you do not hit women, you do not beat animals and most off you do not do what these creeps did its just plain wrong

    July 18, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
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