Penn State University bowed to public pressure early Sunday morning and removed the statue of late football coach Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium.
Only days ago, the university trustees had said they would leave the statue standing.
Construction workers removed the 7-foot, 900-pound bronze statue from its pedestal outside Beaver Stadium, its home for more than a decade, with jackhammers and a forklift. Its removal came after a damaging report accused Paterno and university leaders of covering up child sex abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who has been convicted of the crimes.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson said Paterno's statute has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in the school and elsewhere.
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.
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Paterno coached Penn State football for more than 40 years before he died in January at age 85. The statue was built in his honor in 2001 for his record-setting 324th Division 1 coaching victory, among other contributions to the school.
Angelo Di Maria, the statue's sculptor, was upset to hearing it was taken down.
It's like a whole part of me is coming down. It's just an incredibly emotional process, Di Maria told the Associated Press. When things quiet down, if they do quiet down, I hope they don't remove it permanently or destroy it. 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.
Paterno's legacy is not totally removed from the university, as Penn State decided it would keep the coach's name memorialized on the campus library.
The Paterno Library symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University, Erickson said. The library remains a tribute to Joe and Sue Paterno's commitment to Penn State's student body and academic success, and it highlights the positive impacts Coach Paterno had on the University. Thus I feel strongly that the library's name should remain unchanged.
Paterno's statute has long been the topic of discussion since he was forced out of his position less than a week after Sandusky's arrest. Sandusky was arrested on multiple counts of child sex abuse on Nov. 5. He since been convicted of those allegations and is awaiting sentencing.
Critics applied more pressure on Penn State to remove Paterno's statue after FBI Director Louis Freeh's report alleged that Paterno covered up the child sex abuse incidents, along with ousted President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz.
The report stated that because of all their failure to report Sandusky in 2001, the assistant coach went on to molest other boys.