STATE COLLEGE, Pa., July 22 (UPI) -- The statue of Joe Paterno was removed from its site outside the Penn State football stadium for safekeeping early Sunday, school officials announced.
Work crews arrived at Beaver Stadium at daybreak Sunday and used jackhammers to remove the bronze statue of the legendary coach, which Penn State President Rodney Erickson said had become a "lightning rod" in the sexual-abuse scandal centered on Paterno's one-time assistant Jerry Sandusky.
"I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno's statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond," Erickson said in a written statement. "For that reason, I have decided that it is in the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue and store it in a secure location."
Erickson did not say when or of the statue would be returned to the stadium.
The removal of the statue began without advance notice and with a heavy presence of police to prevent public emotions from heating up. A temporary fence draped with a tarp blocked the view of the project from the few early-rising passersby.
The Center Daily Times of State College, Pa., said the witnesses were by and large dismayed at the removal of the statue.
"It's just another crime being committed," said State College resident Susan Lamey. "It's just like what they want to do with the football team. They keep punishing the innocent. This doesn't fix anything."