On Friday, there were conflicting reports over whether the Joe Paterno statue would be removed this weekend. NFL Network reporter Kimberly Jones, a Penn State grad, tweeted that it indeed would be taken down. The Penn State board and a spokesman for the school quickly shot that down, saying no decision had been made.
Well, a decision had been made.
At around 7 a.m. this morning, workers began a two-hour process of removing the statue, with jackhammers. They worked behind a makeshift fence and blue tarp. According to CentreDaily.com, a Penn State spokesman watched from a skybox above. The statue was removed with a forklift.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson released a statement early today. Some highlights:
Since we learned of the Grand Jury presentment and the charges against Jerry Sandusky and University officials last November, members of the Penn State community and the public have been made much more acutely aware of the tragedy of child sexual abuse. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to those victims of Mr. Sandusky and all other victims of child abuse. I assure you that Penn State will take a national leadership role in the detection and prevention of child maltreatment in the months and years ahead.
I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno's statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond. 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. 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.
On the other hand, 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. 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.
Coach Paterno's positive impact over the years and everything he did for this University predate his statue. At the same time it is true that our institution's excellence cannot be attributed to any one person or to athletics. Rather, Penn State is defined by our actions and accomplishments as a learning community. Penn State has long been an outstanding academic institution and we will continue to be.
I fully realize that my decision will not be popular in some Penn State circles, but I am certain it is the right and principled decision. I believe we have chosen a course that both recognizes the many contributions that Joe Paterno made to the academic life of our University, while taking seriously the conclusions of the Freeh Report and the national issue of child sexual abuse. Today, as every day, our hearts go out to the victims.
For once, Penn State did something right. Not just removing the statue, but allowing almost no time to pass between the decision and the removal. It setup an eery and, yeah, somewhat insensitive scene… but there was no other way. If there’s one thing the administration has learned, apparently, it was to not make significant decisions regarding Joe Paterno at a time when students would have a chance to fuel up with alcohol and grab their pitchforks.
Of course, what comes tomorrow from the NCAA will undoubtedly shake Penn State and the college sports world.
Per a report form CBS, an NCAA source said there will be “unprecedented” penalties against both Penn State and its football team announced Monday at 9 a.m. Stay tuned.