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Joe Paterno statue: Penn State brings down 'obstacle to healing' (+video)

In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, Penn State officials removed the statue of head football coach Joe Paterno. He had been implicated in covering up the abuse.

By Staff writer / July 22, 2012

Penn State workers cover the statue of former football coach Joe Paterno on Sunday. The university announced 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 assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Christopher Weddle/Centre Daily Times/AP

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Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was always larger than life, racking up more bowl games than any coach in college football history, the man revered as “JoePa” by generations of students over his 46 years coaching there, whose first name seemed to become “Legendary.”

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His statue outside Beaver Stadium literally was larger than life – 900 pounds of bronze and seven feet tall.

Now it’s been removed, lifted ignominiously by crane early Sunday morning to be stored “in a secure location,” according to university officials. This inanimate object, it seems, had become another victim of a shocking child sex-abuse scandal that went on for years, apparently with at least some knowledge by Mr. Paterno.

IN PICTURES: Fallout from the Penn State scandal

“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,” Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a statement Sunday.

“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,” he 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.”

In a way, it was a Solomonic decision. Remaining in place – and without any name change, at least for now – will be the campus library that bears Paterno’s name.

“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,” Mr. 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.”

Over the years, the Paterno family had made large financial contributions to the university.

Paterno’s fall from Penn State football grace came with the horrific reports of child sexual abuse committed over years by Paterno’s chief assistant and friend Jerry Sandusky.

Mr. Sandusky now awaits sentencing for his conviction last month on 45 charges of child sex abuse involving 10 boys over 15 years.

All along Paterno (who was in his 80s when he died in January of problems related to an illness that his family had announced some time earlier) maintained that he had no idea that Sandusky was a pedophile whose abuse of many boys stretched over years.

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