In an effort to move past the child sex abuse scandal that has ravaged Penn State University and its storied football program, school officials are doing their best to remove the relics of a past era.
Chief among the symbols that marked the university’s pride in its football team is the bronze statue of once-revered head coach Joe Paterno that greets fans entering Beaver Stadium.
But the removal of the statue, which was erected in 2001, could be imminent.
Kimberly Jones of the NFL Network reported on Twitter Friday that the university plans to take down the statue this weekend. Bonnie Bernstein echoed that report, citing a source. But Penn State president Rodney Erickson’s office responded to the reports by telling the school’s donors that “no final decision” has been made regarding the statue. Members of the school’s Board of Trustees told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that the board had a “spirited discussion” about the statue during a Thursday night conference call but that Erickson will make the final decision on whether to remove or relocate the statue.
Source: Penn State Board of Trustees voted on a conference call last night to take down Joe Paterno statue. Will happen this wknd.— Bonnie Bernstein (@BonnieBernstein) July 20, 2012
Prez Rodney Erickson's office is telling PSU donors that "no final decision" has been made on statue.— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) July 20, 2012
Critics have called for the statue to be removed in the wake of an extensive and damning report by former FBI director Louis Freeh that detailed a lack of action by Penn State’s most powerful leaders when they learned former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was having inappropriate relations with young boys in campus facilities. Paterno was named among those leaders and the report contradicted his grand jury testimony regarding when he first became aware of Sandusky’s abuse.
On Tuesday, a plane flew over the campus pulling a banner that read: “Take the statue down or we will.” The threat led Penn State seniors Mike Elliot and Kevin Berkon to organize a Wednesday night vigil to protect the statue from vandals.
Paterno was fired by the school in November after nearly 46 years as coach of the Nittany Lions. He died in January.
A three-sided stone wall that sits behind the statue reads: “Joseph Vincent Paterno: Educator, Coach, Humanitarian.”
The statue’s sculptor, Angelo Di Maria, said he hopes the school will wait for the current firestorm to pass before making a final decision on what should be done with the statue.
“I think we should all wait on it. Put a cover on it,” Di Maria told the Associated Press. “Let’s see how everyone feels in six months ... or a year.”
Since the Freeh Report’s release, the school has changed the name of he student tent community that springs up outside Beaver Stadium before home football games from “Paternoville” to “Nittanyville.”
Last week Nike Inc. announced it would change the name of the Joe Paterno Child Development Center, a child care facility at the company’s headquarters outside Portland, Ore.
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