Penn State hasn’t announced a decision about the future of the Joe Paterno statue, but family and fans of the late coach took time to visit the statue Friday as the possibility that the university will remove it from outside Beaver Stadium loomed.
Sue Paterno and two of the Paternos’ children, Mary Kay Hort and David Paterno, along with Nittany Lion letterman and NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris, an outspoken supporter of Paterno and critic of the way the university fired him, stopped by as fans formed a long line to get pictures with the landmark.
Harris said the Freeh report — which cast blame on Paterno along with three administrators for the Jerry Sandusky scandal — shows there was no cover-up and removing the statue should be out of the question.
“To me, the statue shouldn’t even be in the picture at all,” he said.
Harris posed for pictures with visitors, some of whom thanked him for the support he’s shown.
“It shows that people still show the love,” he said about the line of people. “People deep down know the truth ... That’s why they’re here.”
President Rodney Erickson said he was gathering input from the board of trustees and the President’s Council. He said Tuesday he expected to make decision in about a week.
On Friday, sources said the decision would be made within 72 hours, which would mean by early in the week.
Board member Anthony Lubrano said Erickson had asked trustees for input.
“I give Rod credit,” Lubrano said. “He’s trying to solicit the opinion of all the constituencies, and ultimately the decision lies with Rod and the administration.”
The statue has become a magnet for attention — and speculation — since the Louis Freeh report was issued. That report condemned former President Graham Spanier and former administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, along with Paterno, for their handling of allegations of child sex abuse, saying they were more interested in protecting the university than the boy who was a victim of Jerry Sandusky.
Since the possibility of the statue being removed has come up, fans — along with a few critics — have been dropping by the landmark outside Beaver Stadium to get photographs and leave messages and flowers.
The crowds at the statue grew bigger Friday as reports that the statue could be removed as soon as this weekend circulated. University spokesman David La Torre said Friday he was not aware of any decision being made.
Student government leaders said Thursday they were asked to give input and were surveying student organizations. They’re compiling those results and providing them to the administration.
Vinnie Lizza, president of the Interfraternity Council, said student leaders would be getting back to administrators with that feedback.
“I think everyone feels happy about the fact that the administration reached out to students for their opinions,” Lizza said.
Attorneys for Jerry Sandusky’s victims said Friday they’d like to see the university take the statue down.
“It’s not a matter of if, but rather, when it comes down,” said Tom Kline, attorney for Sandusky victim 5, “And the (Penn State) board would be tone deaf if they don’t understand that statues are for icons, and that Joe Paterno lost that stature forever.”
Andy Shubin, a State College attorney who’s co-counsel for victims No. 3, 7 and 10 in the Sandusky case, said he think the statue needs to come down.
“Not just because it is offensive and painful to the victims and their families. Not just because it is a product of the toxic and rancid moral fog of a corrupted athletic program. Not just because it celebrates a man whose silence and inaction enabled, emboldened and protected a known child predator. And not just because it pays tribute to a man that betrayed the trust and love that generations of Penn Staters bestowed upon him,” Shubin said in a statement. “But also because the good and caring people of this community will not stand for such an ongoing affront to our shared moral judgment that the safety and well-being of our children come first.”