Photograph by Patrick Smith/Getty Images.
After much debate, the famed 900-pound, 7-foot statue of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was removed Sunday morning with little warning. The move came on the same day as the NCAA announced it would be issuing sanctions against the university and its football program following the July 12 report that found the late coach and three other former university officials concealed allegations of sex abuse against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandunsky. A group of workers wrapped up the statue and used a forklift to lift it into Beaver Stadium as around 100 students chanted, “We are Penn State,” reports the Associated Press.
The statue was removed exactly six months after Paterno died of lung cancer on Jan. 22, which was also a Sunday, points out Penn State’s Daily Collegian.
The public learned of the decision to take down the statue before news of the upcoming NCAA sanctions. PSU president Rodney Erickson released a statement at 7 a.m. saying the statue would be taken down and put into storage. Other buildings on campus, including the library and a student center, that bear the Paterno name won’t be changed, Erickson emphasized. The NCAA quickly issued a news release saying that it would announce “corrective and punitive measures” against Penn State on Monday morning, reports the New York Daily News.
CBS News hears word that the NCAA sanctions will involve “unprecedented” penalties against both the university and its football team. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” the source said. Yet ESPN hears from one source that the university won’t receive what has come to be known as the “death penalty,” which would have involved the suspension of the football program for at least one year. Still, Penn State shouldn’t celebrate just yet, as the ESPN source claims the punishment, likely to include loss of scholarships and multiple bowls, is so harsh that the “death penalty” might have been preferable.