The reason they’re taking the statue of JoePa down is that it would be a target of vandalism and a symbol of the school’s failure to report the abuse which would probably have stopped assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky from continuing to abuse young boys.
But it is also true that it may prevent the NCAA from giving the “death penalty” to the Penn State football program that rakes in millions of dollars for the school.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson announced the decision Sunday morning, calling the statue “a source of division and an obstacle to healing.”
“For that reason, I have decided that it is in the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue and store it in a secure location,” Erickson said. “I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse.”
Around 6:15 a.m. Sunday, campus construction crews and police started closing off the main road that runs past the statue and installed fencing covered by blue tarp to block sight lines of the statue.
By 7:30, workers had started the process of removing the statue from the ground. Only a handful of spectators watched from the sidewalk opposite the statue. No immediate uproar or protest could be seen or heard.
Speculation had run rampant as to the statue’s future since the release of Penn State’s internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal last July 12, which implicated Paterno and three high-ranking university officials in concealing allegations of sexual abuse against Sandusky.
The 7-foot, 900-pound bronze statue is one of the most symbolic pieces of Paterno imagery on campus. The school’s library, which also bears Paterno’s name, will not be altered in any way, Erickson said, because it represents the academic mission of the university Paterno helped foster.
To realize that heroes and icons have feet of clay is always one of the great disappointments in life. In the case of Joe Paterno, we have a man whose reputation was, in some respects, undeserved, and in other respects, manufactured by the school’s public relations department. That reputation was worth millions to the school who presented to the world the face of a teacher who cared more about his players’ development as human beings than he did their growth as football players.
The Freeh report showed he cared most about protecting his football program from scandal — even at the expense of the safety of children who were ultimately in his care.
Who was the real Joe Paterno? Why, at the most critical junction of his tenure at Penn State, when he had the opportunity to live up to the strict moral code he demanded of his players, did he fail a test of character by protecting a child sexual predator?
I suspect we’ll never know.