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Penn State Alumni Want New Paterno Statue In State College

Penn State Removes Joe Paterno Statue

Shortly after we learned that Penn State officials, including famed football coach Joe Paterno had failed to act when first learning of reports that former Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky had been abusing young boys, the statute of Joe Paterno on the Penn State campus was removed in the dead of night. Now, some almuni are quietly lobbying to get a JoePa statue erected in State College, even if it isn’t on campus:

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Construction workers tore down Penn State’s iconic Joe Paterno statue on campus two years ago — but this town might not be without one for much longer.

Two alumni already have received the OK from the borough to install a projected $300,000 life-sized bronze sculpture downtown, about two miles from the original site. And they’re hoping the statue, which will feature Paterno sitting on a bench reading Virgil’s “Aeneid,” will be installed by fall of next year.

They have already commissioned an artist, Zenos Frudakis, and will seek to raise $50,000 for “Joe’s Bench” on the funding platform Kickstarter come July.

“We just felt that the university was not ready yet” to honor Paterno, said Kim Intorre, one of the organizers. “But the community is.”

Intorre said the idea for the statue came shortly after Paterno’s death in January 2012 and was not launched in relation to university officials’ decision to remove the Paterno statue outside of Beaver Stadium. That 900-pound statue was taken down in July 2012 during the aftermath of the child-sex abuse scandal involving ex-Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

The NCAA stripped Paterno of 111 wins and levied unprecedented sanctions against the football team, including a four-year postseason ban. But the town here has not forgotten its longtime coach, who spent 61 years on the sideline. If anything, the move has highlighted the growing divide between fans and university officials, who have declined to disclose where the original statue currently resides.

“It’s clear the university isn’t ready to do anything; they’re certainly not ready to put the statue back,” said Ted Sebastianelli, one of the project’s organizers. “That’s their call. Everybody has their own views on the statue and when it should be back up, where it should be and so forth.

“For me, this is something we can do ourselves and it’s a great way — a wonderful way — to honor Joe for his 61 years of service. It doesn’t have anything to do with the statue on campus.”

I’m somewhat ambivalent on whether or not this is a good idea. On the one hand, Paterno was a legendary college football coach and had been a fixture in the community surrounding the Penn State campus for six decades. Even today after all of the revelations about the Sandusky scandal, there are still many alumni and Penn State fans that defend Paterno and contend that his record his being unfairly tarnished when the reality is that officials at the university higher placed than he were the ones who failed to follow up on the allegations against Sandusky. At the same time, though, the whole Sandusky affair was an excellent example of the kind of corruption that seems to inevitably come when a sports program is placed ahead not only of the university but also the well being of children in the community. Why Penn State or State College would want to commemorate any of that is beyond me.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tillman says:

    Am I the only one who thought dedicating and constructing a statue to a college football coach was tacky to begin with?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  2. KM says:

    I’m sorry but no. Statues are an indication of honor and respect – that the subject was worthy of the time and expense necessary to create the statue. It implies an aura of respect and dignity and demonstrates the values the community holds dear.

    Paterno lost those when this $@^$ went down on his watch. The buck stops here. Supporters are so quick to try and minimize his role but the truth is Papa Joe ran that place. Penn State was his kingdom and his loyal vassals are still there still saying “If only the Czar knew…” It was his job to know! It was his team, his friend – his blindness, willful or otherwise. Maybe others had more a legal obligation but he had a moral and ethical one.

    The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. His good was directing others from afar to win petty sports victories, his bad was in not stopping human being’s lives from being ruined. Paterno following up or making some changes, checking up on Sandusky, even showing the slightest bit of vigilance could have prevented a lot of heartache (for the program, for the town and alumnae, for a ton of people). Perspective’s a bitch and it’s sad to see the cultural brainwashing continue at Penn State. Football is not God and it does not worth the price the victims paid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  3. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Nothng more than reactive tribalism at work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  4. Hal_10000 says:

    Supporters are so quick to try and minimize his role but the truth is Papa Joe ran that place. Penn State was his kingdom and his loyal vassals are still there still saying “If only the Czar knew…”

    Not really. He and the Spanier had been in conflict for a long time. Spanier was filling the board with people who didn’t like Paterno and he was becoming increasingly isolated as he dropped more duties — recruiting, dealing with the press, university politics — to focus exclusively on managing the game.

    Not saying he bears no responsibility or that there should be a statue. But this idea that Joe was “running the place” is a simplistic media myth, one that’s been encouraged by people who are trying to shirk their own responsibility.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  5. al-Ameda says:

    And they’re hoping the statue, which will feature Paterno sitting on a bench reading Virgil’s “Aeneid,” will be installed by fall of next year.

    Yes, reading Joe is reading Aeneid while a judge is signing off on the warrant to arrest Jerry Sandusky. Should be a great alumni-sponsored reminder of happy days in Happy Valley.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  6. DrDaveT says:

    @KM:

    Paterno lost those when this $@^$ went down on his watch.

    My first reaction was to agree wholeheartedly.

    My second reaction was to wonder whether I’m willing to tear down all of the statues of Thomas Jefferson.

    On balance, I think it is possible to honor the achievements without condoning every action ever taken. If Paterno did enough good in his first 50 years as head coach*, then maybe he deserves the Jefferson treatment.

    *I honestly don’t know enough about Paterno to make that call. I’m not generally inclined to lionize overpaid college coaches, but there are exceptional people in all walks of life.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  7. KM says:

    But this idea that Joe was “running the place” is a simplistic media myth,

    Was he head coach or not? One of the things about being the boss – you don’t get all that money just to stand around and look pretty. You get the big bucks because you get the responsibility when things happen. When things go wrong, its your head on the block. That’s what being in charge means – you lead the way. I don’t care if he never talk to a dean in his life – this went down where the game lives. If he was “managing the game” to the exclusion of everything else and NOT paying attention to what was happening in the damn building, he still deserves to be excoriated.

    If one of my employees did something like repeatedly in my building that and I didn’t notice, I’d be a pretty @%$&# manager. If I’d even heard a rumor it was going on and didn’t take potentially unnecessary precautions, I’d be a @%$&# manager and risk-evaluator. These are my people and what they do reflects on me. My company would have my ass and you can bet your life they’d take down anything commemorating me. Why the hell people think Paterno should be held to the same standard I have no idea. The captain goes down with the ship….. or at least, he used to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  8. Tillman says:

    @Tillman: This one down-voter is one of my parents, who would let me debate the existence and qualities of Almighty God with them, but say one bad word about Jimmy V and I’d be disavowed.

    Then again, he started a foundation for cancer research instead of being an implicated authority figure during a huge pedophilia scandal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. grumpy realist says:

    @DrDaveT: Yeah–but Thomas Jefferson helped found a new country.

    Joe Paterno was a sports coach.

    I think there’s a little difference. People who do pivotal actions in history may be great but flawed characters (e.g. Napoleon, Jefferson), but the fact is, they DID something that really made a difference.

    Winning a bunch of sports games? Contrary to what a lot of fans think, that’s really not that important.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. DrDaveT says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Joe Paterno was a sports coach.

    If that’s all he was, then he doesn’t deserve a statue, whether he committed any heinous acts or not. My impression is that the State College community would argue vociferously that he was not just a football coach. As I tried to make clear above, I don’t know enough about the man to say one way or the other.

    You’ll note that I never claimed that Joe Paterno is comparable in any way to Jefferson — except in that both men did contemptible things that tarnish their memories. Jefferson makes it clear that it is possible to merit a statue even if you did something contemptible in your life. That means it’s a case by case question, not a no-brainer on general principle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Hal_10000 says:

    If one of my employees did something like repeatedly in my building that and I didn’t notice, I’d be a pretty @%$&# manager. If I’d even heard a rumor it was going on and didn’t take potentially unnecessary precautions, I’d be a @%$&# manager and risk-evaluator. These are my people and what they do reflects on me. My company would have my ass and you can bet your life they’d take down anything commemorating me. Why the hell people think Paterno should be held to the same standard I have no idea. The captain goes down with the ship….. or at least, he used to.

    He did do something in 1998 and the state investigated and decided that he wasn’t a pedophile. He did do what he was supposed to do in 2001 — report it to the head of the athletic department. Should he have done more? Absolutely. But Sandusky fooled a LOT of people.

    You should read this article from the former Paterno chair. It’s a pretty fair take on everything.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  12. Hal_10000 says:

    BTW – In my mind, the person who has not faced any responsibility for this is Governor Corbett. When he was AG, had one maybe two investigators on this case. And Sandusky and Second Mile were huge campaign contributors. It’s a big reason he will probably be unelected soon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. Boyd says:

    This is why I heaped scorn and contempt on those who whined about any “death sentence” penalty that might have been meted out on Penn St, saying, “It’ll devastate local businesses who had nothing to do with the scandal!”

    Sorry folks, but you clearly abetted the whole situation. The lot of you should have lost all your businesses for supporting a man who thought the university’s football program was more important than a former coach screwing boys. You either knew that’s where he stood, or you were idiots that shouldn’t have been let out without a handler. I have as much contempt for you as for JoePa and Sandusky himself. Ptui!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  14. KM says:

    He did do something in 1998 and the state investigated and decided that he wasn’t a pedophile. He did do what he was supposed to do in 2001 — report it to the head of the athletic department. Should he have done more? Absolutely.

    And you don’t think it’s odd that after two allegations that maybe, just maybe, the thought that Sandusky should be supervised AT ALL TIMES when with minors never occurred to Paterno? Here is where legal duty and common sense diverge. If one of my co-workers or employees kept having this charge leveled against them, I would have taken precautions. Consider it Pascal’s Wager applied to business – if you are wrong, you’ve just taken precautions for nothing and CYA yourself, your institution AND the other person. They may not like it but it will protect them, you and everyone else from any further issues. If you’re wrong, however, the cost is far far too high. If an employee keeps getting hit with the same charges over and over, founded or not, you should probably remove them from the situation so it doesn’t happen again.

    Paterno told somebody and let it die. He could have taken action on his own, convinced someone else, done something more then just reported it. He had enough authority to make minor changes that would have saved a lot of grief. Yes, hindsight is a bitch and Sandusky was good at hiding. But Paterno’s claim to fame is LEADING and here you all are claiming he was nothing but a follower phoning it in. The bare minimum from the man who people want a statue of because he was supposed so great at giving and getting others to give 110%.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0