Penn State Removes Joe Paterno Statue


As anticipated, the statue of former football coach Joe Paterno was removed from in front of Beaver Stadium this morning:

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The famed statue of Joe Paterno was taken down from outside the Penn State football stadium Sunday, eliminating a key piece of the iconography surrounding the once-sainted football coach accused of burying child sex abuse allegations against a retired assistant.

Workers lifted the 7-foot-tall statue off its base and used a forklift to move it into Beaver Stadium as the 100 to 150 students watching chanted, “We are Penn State.”

The university announced earlier Sunday 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 retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

The statue, weighing more than 900 pounds, was built in 2001 in honor of Paterno’s record-setting 324th Division 1 coaching victory and his “contributions to the university.”

A spokeswoman for the Paterno family didn’t immediately return phone and email messages.

Construction vehicles and police arrived shortly after dawn Sunday, barricading the street and sidewalks near the statue, erecting a chain-link fence then concealing the statue with a blue tarp.

Penn State President Rod Erickson said he decided to have the statue removed and put into storage because it “has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing.”

“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,” Erickson said in a statement released at 7 a.m. Sunday.

He said Paterno’s name will remain on the campus library because it “symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University.”

The statue’s sculptor, Angelo Di Maria, said it was upsetting to hear that the statue had been taken down.

“It’s like a whole part of me is coming down. It’s just an incredibly emotional process,” Di Maria said.

“When things quiet down, if they do quiet down, I hope they don’t remove it permanently or destroy it,” he said. “His legacy should not be completely obliterated and thrown out. … He was a good man. It wasn’t that he was an evil person. He made a mistake.”

The bronze sculpture has been a rallying point for students and alumni outraged over Paterno’s firing four days after Sandusky’s Nov. 5 arrest — and grief-stricken over the Hall of Fame coach’s Jan. 22 death at age 85.

But it turned into a target for critics after former FBI Director Louis Freeh alleged a cover-up by Paterno, ousted President Graham Spanier and two Penn State officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz. Their failure to report Sandusky to child-welfare authorities in 2001 allowed him to continue molesting boys, the report found.

The action was inevitable, I think. At some point after the students returned, the statue would have become a rallying point for the supporters and critics of Paterno and just would have led to more problems. Besides, after what was revealed in the report, Paterno no longer deserves to be recognized as a hero. If the Paterno family is offended by that, well that’s their problem.

Photo via Politico

FILED UNDER: Sports, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PSU also needs to shut down the football program for 1 year, and return with new colors. No more blue and white.

  2. PSU also needs to shut down the football program for 1 year, and return with new colors. No more blue and white.

  3. SKI says:

    Totally disagree AmCom.

    If same events had happened for a high-profile academic department that brought prestige and money to a school, would you advocate closing the department? Football sanctions should only apply when the crimes, and they were crimes, that were committed related to football. These didn’t. They related to pedophilia and a cover-up to protect the powerful. That the powerful in this case were in football is mere happenstance.

  4. John Burgess says:

    @SKI: “Happenstance?” Really? Is PSU known nationally for anything but its football? I doubt it.

    PSU needs to take a major hit in its football program because it was at fault in protecting the powerful, the football powerful and the school powerful. They are inextricably tied together.

  5. SKI says:

    @John Burgess: way to completely sidestep my point.

    If this happened to University of Chicago’s economics department of Hopkins’ Med School would you advocate closing tips programs?

  6. @John Burgess:

    Is PSU known nationally for anything but its football? I doubt it.

    Yes. It is academically considered one of the better public universities in the country:

  7. Ben says:

    SKI, you are the one missing the point. This huge tragedy would have been nipped in the bud at least 11 years ago, if not 14, if it were not for the ridiculous amount of power, deference and almost deification of the football program at this school. Their institutional priorities and power structure were so far out of whack, that it is unsalvageable. The fact that the president of the school deferred to the football coach’s judgment about the handling of a sex abuse scandal is preposterous. The entire system has to be burned to the ground so a new, healthy system can be built in its place.

    The fact that students, alumni and the surrounding community STILL support this weak and immoral man shows that they still cannot understand the depths of their own ridiculousness and need to be taught a lesson. For Christ’s sake, they still think that a freaking football coach’s legacy is more important than RAPED CHILDREN.

  8. SKI says:

    @Ben: @Ben: Not missing it. Abuse of power, circling the wagons, and protection of the priveleged is neither new nor limited to football programs. The individuals should be fired, prosecuted and generally never again be allowed in any position of power or prestige.

    And if PSU decides to end their program, that is their call. But the NCAA has no authority to do this for breaking society’s rules, only if a program violates NCAA rules. The crimes here are literal crimes, not football ones.

  9. superdestroyer says:


    The cover ups occurred to protect the football team, the football coaches, and the athletic program. University employees so feared the football coaches and athletic department staff that those employyes declined to report crimes.

    Any program that has instilled such fear on others needs to be shut down. Until the football program in ended, the university is signalling to the world that football is the most important thing at Penn State.

  10. bandit says:

    Football is the most important thing at Penn State. Why else do you think this ever woould have happended?

  11. SKI says:

    @superdestroyer: Not sure I agree but so what? If the NCAA ends it for them (for a year or so), how does that show that PSU recognizes that football isn’t that important? Don’t confuse punishment with contrition/amends.

  12. superdestroyer says:


    The point would be that every other school would realize that covering up for the football team could be much worse than any sort of scandal involving the football team.

  13. SKI says:

    @superdestroyer: you don’t think they already got the message that covering up for pedophilia is a big problem?!?!

  14. Franklin says:

    … as the 100 to 150 students watching chanted, “We are Penn State.”

    Oh, dear lord I hate the “We are XXX” thing that EVERYBODY does now. It made some sense for Marshall (although I’m not sure if that’s where it started). But they had a bunch of dead football players, so any slogan would have been meaningful. Penn State, on the other hand, is just carting off a statue of a molester enabler, not exactly the time to strike up the lame copied slogan machine.

  15. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I never thought I would see a thread where I agreed with superdestroyer and bandit.