A sign reading “We won’t forget” and “Return our statue” was left Monday at the spot where a bronze likeness of the late Joe Paterno once stood.
The Paterno statue was removed from its spot outside Beaver Stadium one year ago amid the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The statue came down the day before the NCAA handed down severe sanctions on Penn State and its football program.
A Penn State spokesman had no comment Monday about the condition or location of the Paterno statue. University officials have never discussed where the statue is being kept, saying only that it is in a “secure location.”
Just before 6 a.m. on Sunday, July 22, 2012, university police and workers with the Office of Physical Plant arrived at the site on Porter Road.
Using jackhammers, they removed the statue and moved it into Beaver Stadium with a fork lift. Workers then took down the plaques listing Paterno’s victories by season and other items on the wall that stood behind the statue.
The statue decision followed the release of the Louis Freeh report, which said Paterno and other top Penn State officials had hidden Sandusky’s crimes for years. Sandusky was convicted last June on 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence in a state prison in Greene County.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson released a statement as the statue was being removed, saying, “the statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium has become a lightning rod of controversy and national debate, including the role of big-time sports in university life.”
Within two days, the wall itself had been knocked down and the concrete was removed.
A week later, the site looked almost as if the statue had never been there at all. Trees had been planted and sod placed to match the rest of that stretch of Porter Road.
After the Freeh findings were announced on July 12, 2012, pressure mounted on Penn State to remove the statue, which had stood outside the stadium since 2001.
In the days before the statue was removed, a plane flew over the State College skies pulling a banner with the message, “Take down the statue or we will.”
The Paterno statue stood 7 feet tall and weighed 900 pounds.
It served as a shrine and gathering spot in the days surrounding Paterno’s death from cancer in January 2012.
As the statue was coming down early that morning, word got out through social media from those seeing news coverage. Soon, a crowd had gathered to watch.
Stefanie Yeager, of State College, told a Centre Daily Times reporter at the time: “It’s a very sad day.”