NBC10 Philadelphia - Tim Furlong
Penn State University removed the 7-foot tall statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver stadium on Sunday. The university says the statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing, but as NBC10's Tim Furlong reports, not everybody sees it that way.
Stay tuned for continuing coverage on this story from NBC10 reporters on Monday. NBC 10's Tim Furlong reports live from Penn State University at 4:30 a.m. Also make sure to check out our website tomorrow at 9 a.m. for a live stream of the NCAA's announcement of the sanctions against Penn State. NBC 10's Rosemary Connors reports live from Indianapolis.
A mix of reactions poured in Sunday as officials from Penn State University order workers to remove the famed Joe Paterno statue from outside Beaver Stadium in the wake of an investigative report that found that the late coach and three other top administrators concealed sex abuse claims against Jerry Sandusky.
Construction vehicles and police arrived shortly after dawn, barricading the street and sidewalks near the statue, erecting a chain-link fence and then concealing the 7-foot-tall statue with a blue tarp.
Workers used jackhammers to free the statue and a forklift to lower it onto a flat-bed truck that rolled into a stadium garage bay as some of the 100 to 150 students and other onlookers chanted, “We are Penn State.”
The NCAA, meanwhile, announced that it would levy “corrective and punitive measures” on Monday.
Penn State President Rod Erickson said he decided to have the statue removed and put into storage because it “has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing” and would be “a recurring wound” to victims of child abuse had it remained.
The statue had become such a lightning rod for public opinion amid the child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State that even President Barack Obama weighed in. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told Washington reporters Sunday afternoon that Obama believed “it was the right decision” for the university to remove the monument.
The statue, weighing more than 900 pounds, was built in 2001 in honor of Paterno's record-setting 324th Division I coaching victory and his “contributions to the university.”
Some who came out to watch the statue's removal were angry that it had been done with so little notice that many missed it – “It was under cloak of darkness,” said Diane Byerly, 63, of Harrisburg _ and worried that stiff sanctions from the NCAA would punish the innocent while possibly destroying businesses that rely on the commerce from the tens of thousands who flood State College on game days.
“I think there's ways you can punish the parties involved without affecting all of State College,” said Richard Hill, a 1967 graduate from West Chester.
Chris Stathes, 40, a lifelong Penn State football fan who has a daughter at the school and manages two State College breakfast eateries, said shutting down the program would devastate area businesses.
“Football season, that's our moment. From the time we open our doors in the morning until kickoff, there's a line out the door,” he said.
Philip Frum, 24, who works on research projects for Penn State, said he hoped the statue would be erected elsewhere, such as at a nearby Penn State sports museum.
“This statue was a symbol of all the good things he's done for the university,” Frum said. Any NCAA penalty that shuts down the football program “will be just as bad as taking down the statue,” he said.
The university president said Paterno's name will remain on the campus library because it “symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University.”
The statue's sculptor, Angelo Di Maria, said he felt like a part of him was being taken down with it.
“When things quiet down, if they do quiet down, I hope they don't remove it permanently or destroy it,” Di Maria said. “His legacy should not be completely obliterated and thrown out. ... He was a good man. It wasn't that he was an evil person. He made a mistake.”
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