The statue of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was removed from outside the university's football stadium today, just hours before the NCAA said it would announce its punishment for the school over the reported cover-up of child sexual abuse by a former assistant coach.
Workers erected what amounted to a blue tarp of shame to keep cameras from recording the removal of the statue of the iconic coach whose image was shattered by investigators' allegations that he was involved in covering up the abuse.
The NCAA said today it was preparing to announce "corrective and punitive measures" against Penn State. ESPN has learned those penalties will be significant, including the loss of bowl appearances and several scholarships, which could be more damaging than a full one-year suspension of the football program.
Early this morning workers put up a tarp-covered fence around the statue of the famed football coach. Plastic sheeting and blankets were wrapped around the likeness of Paterno. Then came the sound of jackhammers ripping apart the base so a forklift could carry the statue away as the university deals with the stain of scandal. Not everyone was happy.
"Joe did a lot of things for this university," said student Jeremie Thompson who added, "another memory gone, disappointed in the university."
But University President Rodney Ericson said in a statement that leaving the statue would be, "a recurring wound … an obstacle to healing … a lightning rod of controversy."
The Penn State library will continue to carry Paterno's name.
Revelations in a report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh show that Paterno had been told, even before the statue was erected, that his defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, was sexually abusing boys.
Even though Gayle Barnes, who was Juror No. 3 in Sandusky's trial, voted for conviction, she said she believes the statue should have stayed.
"Yes, Joe Paterno did wrong, but there are other people out there right now, we don't know the conclusion to everything, so why are taking something down, and we don't have all 100 percent of the facts," she told ESPN. "I don't think it should be coming down right now. Give it time."
Monday morning, NCAA President Mark Emmert will announce sanctions against Penn State. ESPN College Football Reporter Joe Schad says the penalties will be extraordinary.
"He (Emmert) wants everybody to understand that in extraordinary situations such as this, that an egregious failure to action took place, that he will step up, that he will make a decision that lets people understand that Penn State's situation can never happen again," Schad said.
This is a unique situation because NCAA bylaws don't cover what happened at Penn State. So, Schad said, Emmert went to the board of trustees of the NCAA for authority to levy penalties. Emmert, according to Schad, "found a way to do something that they felt needed to be done, to do something that they felt would create at least some semblance of justice in a situation that was so horrific."