- Associated Press - Sunday, July 22, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — The famed statue of Joe Paterno was taken down from outside the Penn State football stadium Sunday as the NCAA announced it would be issuing sanctions against the university whose top officials were accused in a scathing report of burying child sex abuse allegations against a now-convicted retired assistant.

Workers lifted the 7-foot-tall statue off its base and used a forklift to move it into Beaver Stadium as the 100 to 150 students watching chanted, “We are Penn State.”

The university announced earlier Sunday that it was taking down the monument in the wake of an investigative report that found the late coach and three other top Penn State administrators concealed sex abuse claims against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Meanwhile, the NCAA said that that it would levy “corrective and punitive measures” against Penn State in the wake of the child sex-abuse scandal involving former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The organization announced Sunday that it would spell out the sanctions on Monday but disclosed no details.

NCAA President Mark Emmert hasn’t ruled out the possibility of shutting down the Penn State football program in the wake of the scandal, adding that he had “never seen anything as egregious.”

The Paterno family issued a statement only hours later saying the statue’s removal “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 vowed its own investigation following the release of the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh. The family called the report “the equivalent of an indictment — a charging document written by a prosecutor — and an incomplete and unofficial one at that.”

Paterno’s widow, Sue, and two of the Paternos’ children visited the statue Friday as students and fans lined up to get their pictures taken with the landmark. The statue, weighing more than 900 pounds, was built in 2001 in honor of Paterno’s record-setting 324th Division I coaching victory and his “contributions to the university.”

Construction vehicles and police arrived shortly after dawn Sunday, barricading the street and sidewalks near the statue, erecting a chain-link fence then concealing the statue with a blue tarp. Many of those watching stared in disbelief, and at least one woman wept, while others expressed anger at the decision.

“I think it was an act of cowardice on the part of the university,” Mary Trometter of Williamsport, who wore a shirt bearing Joe Paterno’s image. She said she felt betrayed by university officials, saying they promised openness but said nothing about the decision until just before the removal work began.

Penn State President Rod Erickson said he decided to have the statue removed and put into storage because it “has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing.”

“I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse,” Erickson said in a statement released at 7 a.m. Sunday.

He said Paterno’s name will remain on the campus library because it “symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University.”

The statue’s sculptor, Angelo Di Maria, said it was upsetting to hear that the statue had been taken down.

“It’s like a whole part of me is coming down. It’s just an incredibly emotional process,” Di Maria said.

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