US university removes Paterno statue after child sex scandal

Posted at 07/23/12 11:13 AM

A combination photo shows the Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium before (L) and after it has been removed (R) in State College, Pennsylvania, July 20, 2012 and July 22, 2012. Penn State leaders acknowledged that the seven-foot (2.1-metre) statue of the late Paterno had become "a source of division" at the school after Jerry Sandusky, Paterno's former assistant coach, was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years. The statue was removed on July 22. Photo by Pat Little, Reuters.

WASHINGTON - Workers at Penn State University on Sunday used jackhammers and a forklift to remove a statue of legendary football coach Joe Paterno, tarnished by a child sex scandal that saw his top aide imprisoned.

A report found that top officials at Penn State showed "total and consistent disregard" for the well-being of the victims of sex abuse perpetrated by Jerry Sandusky, an assistant football coach at the school who was convicted on pedophilia charges last month.

Sandusky, who is in prison awaiting sentencing after being convicted of molesting 10 boys over 15 years, was at one time the late Paterno's top assistant.

"The statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium has become a lightning rod of controversy and national debate, including the role of big time sports in university life," read a statement Sunday by Penn State President Rodney Erickson.

The 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."

The removal of the statue came on the same day that the National Collegiate Athletics Association, which governs major university sports programs, said it would announce "corrective and punitive" measures against Penn State on Monday.

Association officials declined to elaborate, but several US media outlets reported the NCAA would not suspend Penn State's gridiron program.

Other sanctions could include such measures as reducing the number of football scholarships the university can offer and a ban from prestigious and lucrative bowl games.

Some 30 police officers arrived just after dawn Sunday with a team of workers in hard-hats to remove the Paterno statue, the local newspaper, the Centre Daily Times, reported.

The team set up a metal fence around the area where the statue is located and covered it with a blue tarp to prevent the public from seeing them as they pulled down the bronze statue.

A report by former FBI head Louis Freeh excoriated the university for failing to immediately notify the proper authorities when revelations first surfaced that Sandusky had engaged in improper behavior involving children.

Paterno, who died of cancer in January, was seen as the most powerful man in the university town of State College, Pennsylvania, because of the millions of dollars that poured into Penn State coffers each year -- from adoring alumni proud of its storied football tradition and from outside sponsors.

But Paterno's legacy has been forever sullied by the charges -- backed up in Freeh's report -- that he failed to take action against Sandusky, allowing him to target new child abuse victims at will.

Paterno's family criticized the decision over the statue.

"Tearing down the statue of Joe Paterno does not serve the victims of Jerry Sandusky's horrible crimes or help heal the Penn State community," the family said in a statement.

© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse

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