STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP/WJZ) — Fallout from the Penn State child sex abuse scandal continues. The famous bronze statue of former football coach Joe Paterno was taken down Sunday as the university braces for a major punishment to its football program.
Derek Valcourt has more on what happened and what’s expected on Monday.
Paterno’s statue was taken down Sunday morning. There is word that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will hit the school with major punishments, including millions of dollars in fines.
At Penn State, the iconic statue of once-revered Joe Paterno is no longer proudly on display. Penn State’s president ordered its removal after a report found that the late head football coach and other school officials covered up child sex abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Early Sunday morning, crews wrapped the 900-pound bronze sculpture in a tarp, jack-hammered it out of the ground and put it into storage, leaving Penn State fans with mixed emotions.
“This is a travesty.”
“I think it should be taken down since he knew what was going on,” Nicole Scogi said.
“I think it had to happen. There was too much controversy around the statue,” John Gallagher said.
The university announced earlier Sunday that it was taking down the monument in the wake of an investigative report that found the late coach and three other top Penn State administrators concealed sex abuse claims against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
The statue was built in 2001 in honor of Paterno’s record-setting 324th Division 1 coaching victory and his “contributions to the university.”
Construction vehicles and police arrived shortly after dawn Sunday, barricading the street and sidewalks near the statue, erecting a chain-link fence then concealing the statue with a blue tarp.
Penn State President Rod Erickson said he decided to have the statue removed because it “has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing.”
“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,” Erickson said in a statement released at 7 a.m. Sunday.
He 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.”
University officials had called the issue a sensitive one in light of Paterno’s enormous contributions to the school over a 61-year coaching career. The Paterno family is well-known in the community for philanthropic efforts, including the millions of dollars they’ve donated to the university to help build a library and fund endowments and scholarships.
The statue’s sculptor, Angelo Di Maria, said it was upsetting to hear that the statue had been taken down.
“It’s like a whole part of me is coming down. It’s just an incredibly emotional process,” Di Maria said. “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.”
The bronze sculpture has been a rallying point for students and alumni outraged over Paterno’s firing four days after Sandusky’s Nov. 5 arrest and grief-stricken over the Hall of Fame coach’s Jan. 22 death at age 85.
But it turned into a target for critics after former FBI Director Louis Freeh alleged a cover-up by Paterno, ousted President Graham Spanier and two Penn State officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz. Their failure to report Sandusky to child-welfare authorities in 2001 allowed him to continue molesting boys, the report found.
Paterno’s family, along with attorneys for Spanier, Curley and Schultz, vehemently deny any suggestion they protected a pedophile. Curley and Schultz await trial on charges of failing to report child abuse and lying to a grand jury but maintain their innocence. Spanier hasn’t been charged. Sandusky was convicted last month of 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys.
The president of the Baltimore chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association said he would not comment until Monday, after the NCAA announces its sanctions against the university’s football program.
Though Penn State football will not face the so-called death penalty– the suspension of its program for a year or more– sources tell CBS News the NCAA’s punishment will include probation, a loss of football scholarships, a ban on post-season bowl games, and a hefty fine, reportedly millions of dollars, which could cut hurt the football program for years.
“When these sanctions are all said and done, Penn State is going to wish it had the death penalty. That’s how severe and punitive I’m told they’re going to be,” Armen Keteyian, a CBS News chief investigative correspondent, said.
Some fans argue severe NCAA sanctions and the removal of Paterno’s statue won’t help the sex abuse victims and will only hurt the school more.
“They’re just making everybody upset by doing this. What’s it really doing for the college or for NCAA?” said one.
The Paternos family released a written statement saying that tearing down the statue does not serve the victims of Sandusky’s crimes or help heal Penn State.
The NCAA sanctions will be spelled out in detail at a news conference scheduled for 9 a.m. on Monday.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)