Joe Paterno statue sculptor questions fate of work

Posted at 8:02 AM, Jul 19, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-19 08:02:35-04

By Julia Greenberg, CNN

(CNN) — The fate of a 900-pound statue of Joe Paterno remains unclear as the Penn State community debates the former head football coach’s legacy in light of a recent report that said several Penn State officials helped empower Jerry Sandusky in sexually abusing minors.

A decision will be made in seven to 10 days on whether the bronze tribute will remain on campus, said Penn State spokesman David La Torre.

However, one man, the sculptor, hopes Penn State officials do not rush to make a judgment.

“As an artist, of course, part of me is in that statue, but I’m willing to go along with the just or fair decision,” said Angelo Di Maria, who designed the sculpture of the former coach in 2001.

Di Maria hopes officials will wait for emotions to “cool down a bit” before making a final decision.

“I say wait and see,” he added. “Nothing will diminish what happened. [But] do we throw away all the positive things that [Paterno] did? Do we cross out his name from the history of State College?”

Commissioned to design a sculpture honoring Paterno more than a decade ago, Di Maria attended his first football game in Beaver Stadium and, unbeknownst to the coach, took pictures of Paterno on the field.

“It was an incredible experience,” Di Maria said. “The energy I felt there was incredible.”

Di Maria designed the iconic sculpture from his experience at that first game.

“It was so common for him to run out on the field,” Di Maria said. “Finger up in the air — like No. 1 — State College No. 1, team No. 1.”

Paterno’s statue and legacy, however, have come under fire in the week after the release of the Freeh Report, the scathing investigation led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

The report found several Penn State officials concealed evidence that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused minors. Freeh concluded that Paterno could have prevented further sexual abuse had he taken action. Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 victims.

The Freeh report has shaken support for Paterno in the State College community. Paterno was fired after Sandusky was charged. He died earlier this year.

A small plane flew around the Penn State campus on Tuesday carrying a banner that read, “Take the Statue Down or We Will.”

Di Maria, however, believes Paterno’s impact on the community should not be forgotten.

“Nothing justifies what happened to those kids,” Di Maria said. “But are we underestimating his goodness that he shared with so many people while he was living?”

“Are [the students] in their own way — of course, nowhere near what the victims suffered — are they victims in their own sense? I think so,” he added. “Do we have to consider those other people? Not just Joe Paterno, but what he stood for?”