State College, PA – The statue of legendary Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was removed from the front of Beaver Stadium on Sunday in another aftershock of the Freeh Report following the school's investigation into the child sex abuse scandal against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
University president Rodney Erickson announced the decision Sunday morning.
"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," said Erickson in a statement. "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."
The statement was released early Sunday morning and the actual removal of the statue came a short time later.
With the early start, only a small group of people -- rather than a potential throng of onlookers -- watched as a construction crew worked on the statue, which was wrapped and covered as it was jackhammered out of the concrete and lifted away.
The NCAA, soon after the statue came down, scheduled a press conference for Monday, at which time Penn State will learn of likely sanctions from the governing body stemming from the Sandusky scandal.
Various reports indicate that Penn State will be severely punished for its actions, but the university will likely avoid the "death penalty." Scholarship losses and a postseason ban will be among the likely penalties. The "death penalty" would put the football program on hiatus for at least one year and possibly longer.
Erickson on Sunday also said Paterno's name will remain on the school's 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 continued. "The library remains a tribute to Joe and (wife) 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."
The Paternos contributed millions of dollars to the university, not just for athletics, but also for academics.
However, the statue -- a 7-foot tall structure erected in 2001 -- had become a source of controversy since the Freeh Report revealed that Paterno knew more about the Sandusky issue than he originally acknowledged. The late coach's family has denied those assertions.
"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," Erickson concluded. "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."
Paterno, who died in January of lung cancer, was fired last November, less than a week after Sandusky's arrest on child sex abuse charges. Sandusky was convicted last month on 45 of the 48 counts charging him with sexual abuse against 10 boys over a 15-year period and will likely spend the rest of his life in jail after he is sentenced later this year.