Penn St president weighing Paterno statue's future

Associated Press Modified: July 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm •  Published: July 20, 2012
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As emotions continue to swirl around Penn State's larger-than-life statue of Joe Paterno, the university president is methodically seeking input from trustees, alumni and others about the fate of the monument.

The statue has become a lightning rod since an investigation concluded the Hall of Fame football coach and other top university officials concealed child sex abuse allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky more than a decade ago.

President Rodney Erickson is expected to announce his decision next week.

Predictably, it will be unpopular no matter what.

Many of Paterno's supporters will be incensed if the bronze statue comes down. But critics say it would be unseemly to leave the statue in place in the wake of an internal investigation that found Paterno, ousted President Graham Spanier and two other Penn State officials covered up a 2001 allegation against Sandusky to shield the university from bad publicity.

Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after felony convictions of abuse involving 10 boys.

Paterno's family and lawyers for Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz vehemently deny any suggestion they protected a pedophile and call the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh inaccurate.

The statue, nearly 7 feet tall and weighing more than 900 pounds, was erected in 2001 in honor of Paterno's record-setting 324th Division I coaching victory and his "contributions to the university."

As he weighs its fate, Erickson must also consider how the NCAA will react if he leaves the monument in its current location outside Beaver Stadium. The governing body is investigating whether Penn State lost "institutional control" of its athletic program, and it could level harsh sanctions — including a complete shutdown of the lucrative football program — depending on the outcome of the probe.

In a conference call Thursday night, Penn State trustees asked Erickson for an update on the statue. Erickson replied that he is continuing his outreach, and he invited board members to share their thoughts with him, either on the call or privately, a trustee told The Associated Press. The trustee spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because the board discussion was private.

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