An old employer posted a photo online Friday that finally drove home to me that one thing must change at Penn State – Joe Paterno’s statue outside Beaver Stadium must go and never be seen again.
The Centre Daily Times photo shows a campus security guard at the statue as fans gather around it and take pictures of each other posing next to the bronze likeness of Paterno.
The photo was taken after the Freeh report was released – the one where the former FBI director pulled no punches in blaming Paterno and three university officials with failing to stop Jerry Sandusky in 1998 (I knew from the beginning that Paterno had to be aware of the investigation that ultimately led to no charges being filed) and 2001.
As an alum who returned a decade later to spend a few years in State College, I know Thursday was one of those days the borough filled with tourists attending the first day of Arts Fest. The Beaver Stadium parking lots likely were open for many of those tourists to park their vehicles, meaning many would have taken a quick trip to see the statue on their way to check out the blocks of art.
What I don’t understand is why someone, on this day, would have her picture taken next to that statue. Is she still holding onto the belief that:
- Paterno could not have known – he was not that close to Sandusky. Sandusky played for him, coached under him for three decades and had an office next to his boss?
- Paterno told his supervisors (more on that later)?
- Paterno, of the four officials drawing blame in the report, was the only one to show contrition, admitting he wished he had done more?
- Paterno, after more than 60 years of service to the university, did not deserve to be fired over the telephone? I won’t debate the method of his dismissal, but when Freeh was asked if the board acted properly in relieving Paterno of his coaching duties, he was unequivocal in his response – yes.
Let’s stop thinking that Athletic Director Tim Curley was Paterno’s supervisor. As Freeh’s investigators found in 1998 and 2001, Curley and the other s were responsible for keeping Paterno aware of what was happening and apparently changed their plan to deal with Sandusky 2001 after talking with Paterno. The investigation found they decided to take a humane approach with Sandusky. Humane is a word that should haunt all of us associated with Penn State.
Now for those who posed next to the statue this week – are you showing your picture to family and friends? Are you being asked about your beliefs about the coach? Are you being honest with yourself?
As for what to do with the statue, I had been thinking it could be placed elsewhere on campus – the Paterno Library being one consideration. I no longer think that. Get rid of it President Rodney Erickson. Paterno’s family expressed dislike for it because it depicts him with his finger raised over his head. Paterno was a fist, not a finger, guy.
As for the library, keep the name. While I think Phil Knight made the right decision to remove Paterno’s name from a building at Nike headquarters, I am not one who wants to see the library renamed. Joe and his wife, Sue, were honored with that designation for their efforts to raise millions for its construction. Removing the name from the library would not affect Joe, but I have to believe it would devastate his widow.
I am sure Sue Paterno and her family are doing the best they can to come to grips with the death of an icon in January followed by the death of his image.
John Bechtel spends his days editing. He and his wife are new to Maryland and look forward to exploring the state.