Paterno statue falls as Penn State prepares for punishment
After the university removed the iconic and controversial statue, the NCAA said it would announce Penn State's punishment Monday morning.
The Associated Press and The New York Times
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Shortly after Penn State tore down its famed statue of coach Joe Paterno, the NCAA announced Sunday it would impose "corrective and punitive" sanctions against the university in the wake of a devastating report that asserted top university officials buried child sex abuse allegations against a retired assistant coach more than a decade ago.
The NCAA, acting with rare speed, said it will spell out the penalties on Monday in a news conference at 6 a.m. PDT. No further details were disclosed.
If precedent holds from recent cases, Penn State will face a loss of scholarships and a multi-year ban from bowl games — and with it, the financial windfall and showcase that comes with postseason play.
Yet NCAA President Mark Emmert, previously UW's president, cautioned last week that he hadn't ruled out the possibility of shutting down the Penn State football program altogether, saying he had "never seen anything as egregious" as the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
The NCAA may fine Penn State between $30 million and $60 million, which would go toward an endowment for children's causes, CBSSports.comreported, citing unidentified sources with knowledge of the situation.
A harsh penalty would have repercussions well beyond football, whose large profits — more than $50 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education — subsidize dozens of other sports programs at the school. The potential for a historic NCAA penalty also worries a region whose economy is built at least partially on the strength and popularity of the football program.
"It's going to kill our town," said Derek Leonard, 31, a university construction project coordinator who grew up in the area.
Emmert has seemingly put the Penn State matter on the fast track.
As Penn State awaited its fate, construction workers took down the larger-than-life monument to Paterno — on the six-month anniversary of his death from lung cancer at age 85. The Paterno family released a statement criticizing Penn State's decision to remove the statue, saying it was made in haste and before all the facts about Paterno's role in the Sandusky scandal were known.
"Tearing down the statue of Joe Paterno does not serve the victims of Jerry Sandusky's horrible crimes or help heal the Penn State community. We believe the only way to help the victims is to uncover the full truth," said the family, which has vowed its own investigation following the release of an investigative report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that found that Paterno and three other top Penn State administrators concealed sex abuse claims against Sandusky.
A work crew arrived before dawn and used jackhammers and a forklift to unceremoniously remove the statue of Paterno from its spot outside the Penn State football stadium, quickly dismantling an iconic tribute to the coach that had become a focus for scorn after the release of the Freeh report.
It was the most visible sign yet that the university has distanced itself from the man who was once the university's patriarchal figure. Construction vehicles and police barricaded the street and sidewalks near the statue, draped the figure in a blue tarp and hauled it to an undisclosed location.
The bronze statue was erected in 2001 in honor of Paterno's record-setting 324th Division I coaching victory and his "contributions to the university." Students chanted, "We are Penn State" as it came down Sunday morning.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson said he decided the sculpture had to go because it "has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing."
In Washington, the White House said President Barack Obama believed "it was the right decision."
But the vast majority of fans gathering outside Beaver Stadium to watch the statue's removal disagreed. At least one woman wept, others expressed anger at the decision, and nearly all said they continued to support their beloved "JoePa."
The statue was a rallying point for supporters after Paterno's death on Jan. 22. But its symbolic meaning had been changing lately. Auxiliary police officers had been guarding the statue against vandals, and last week, a small plane flew over the campus pulling a banner that read, "Take down the statue or we will."