As onlookers placed flowers and letters at the feet of the bronze Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium Sunday, a man standing in the background pointed out four season plaques to his young daughters.
The man was Gary Brown, pointing out the 1987-90 seasons when he played as running back for Penn State, No. 33, under the tutelage of Paterno.
“Joe did a lot for me and my career,” said Brown, who is currently the running backs coach for the Cleveland Browns. “I wanted to make sure my kids knew who he was and to see the statue in case it was taken down.”
Penn State spokesman David La Torre issued a statement in response to a Yahoo! Sports article implying that the Penn State Board of Trustees voted to leave the statue in place, which itself references an ESPN.com article.
“Contrary to various reports, neither the Board of Trustees nor University Administration has taken a vote or made a decision regarding the Joe Paterno statue at Beaver Stadium," La Torre said in the statement.
It was indicated in former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s report that the late head coach Paterno was among at least four Penn State officials who knew about a report of child sexual involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and chose not to report it to police.
Sandusky was convicted in June on 45 counts of child sex abuse.
The statue currently has a Penn State University Police officer stationed there to protect it from vandalism or any other illegal activity that may happen to it, and it has since Thursday when Freeh released his report.
The officer at the statue, who requested to remain anonymous, said University Police officers have been taking six-hour shifts watching the statue continuously, with the last shift ending sometime Sunday evening.
The officer said that people have been steadily coming by throughout the day to take pictures with the statue and placing items such as flowers and letters at the statue’s feet, and blue and white beaded necklaces around the arm.
Chairwoman of the Penn State Board of Trustees Karen Peetz said at a press conference Friday that there are no plans to remove statue at this time.
Many letters and posters were also left at the feet of the statue, including one that said “The Joe We Know! May he rest in peace! God will take care of the rest!”
Another of these posters was a letter addressed to Paterno.
“Joe Pa, We don’t believe Freeh’s propaganda. We do believe in you!”
Peetz said this is a very “sensitive” matter and that there will be a lot of dialogue with the community concerning it, and that there wasn't a timeline for addressing it.
Although there have been no official votes on what to do with the Paterno statue, if anything, many people have taken the rumors to be true, and have flocked to the statue to take what they believe to be their last photos with it.
Glen Morris, Class of 1985, said that he brought his daughter, a prospective Penn State student, to visit the campus and the Paterno statue specifically to show her what Penn State’s tradition of understanding and goodwill means.
Morris said that even though Freeh’s report should be taken to heart and the recommendations acted upon, he still believes the statue should stay as a monument to Paterno.
“The scandal is not about Paterno, it’s about Sandusky,” Morris said. “If given the circumstances, any of us may have acted the same way. It’s unwarranted to go back years later and judge someone like people have done.”
A group of four alumni, all women wearing identical shirts saying, “We are because you were,” in reference to Paterno, were in State College because of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, and chose to come to the statue one last time because they heard rumors it would be taken down.
“It has been heartbreaking,” Kate Wojtowicz, Class of 2008, one of the women, said. “Not just for [Paterno] but for everyone involved — the whole community got torn up.”
Jeff Bishop, Class of 1986, and his wife Janet, Class of 1986, came to the statue to honor Paterno even as it started to rain.
“I don’t know what I would’ve done in the same situation — if we gave statues to only those without faults then no one should have a statue,” Janet Bishop said as the rain continued to get heavier, and people still were taking pictures alongside the statue, mimicking Paterno running onto the field giving the “number one” with his finger.