After much controversy, Penn State President Rodney Erickson announced this morning that he had decided to remove the statue honoring the school's former football coach Joe Paterno.
"I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno's statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond," Erickson said in a statement. "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. 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."
Paterno, a legendary football coach who is often credited with building Penn State, was accused by an internal investigation of covering up the sexual abuse of children by one of his assistant coaches, the now-convicted Jerry Sandusky.
Since then, a debate has raged over what his legacy would be and what the future of the statue outside of Beaver Stadium and indeed the name of the Paterno Library would be.
In his statement, Erickson said the library's name will remain as it "symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence."
But the AP reports that shortly before dawn, construction workers arrived at the site of the bronze statue, "barricading the street and sidewalks near the statue, erecting a chain-link fence then concealing the statue with a blue tarp."
This will no doubt cause controversy. The Patriot News reported yesterday that students have flocked to the statue the last few days, fearing this moment might come.
The News reports:
"Visitors came in a steady stream, some placing flowers, flags and signs at Paterno's bronzed feet. All snapped pictures with the likeness of a now-controversial coach who some blame for keeping quiet while a pedophile preyed upon boys inside the football locker room.
"This pilgrimage for Paterno has been virtually nonstop since last week when speculation mounted and rumors swirled that the university would take down the 900-pound tribute, perhaps in the dead of night."
Update at 8:36 a.m. ET. Statue Has Been Removed:
The AP reports that crews have finished removing the statue.
"Workers lifted the statue off its base and used a forklift to move it into Beaver Stadium early Sunday as the 100 to 150 students watching chanted, 'We are Penn State,' the AP reports.
Update at 11:12 a.m. ET. Removing Statue Doesn't 'Serve Victims':
The family of Joe Paterno issued a statement saying this is not the way to serve the victims of Jerry Sandusky.
"We believe the only way to help the victims is to uncover the full truth," the family said. "The Freeh report, though it has been accepted by the media as the definitive conclusion on the Sandusky scandal, is the equivalent of an indictment – a charging document written by a prosecutor – and an incomplete and unofficial one at that."
The family went on to say that the "better course would have been for the University to take a strong stand in support of due process."