Penn State Football

Penn State Scandal: Ask Happy Valley About the Paterno Statue, Not Bobby Bowden

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12:  Penn State fans gather outside Beaver Stadium near a statue of Joe Paterno before the start of the NCAA football game between Penn State and Nebraska in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal on November 12, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania.  Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was fired amid allegations that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was involved with child sex abuse. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterJuly 13, 2012

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of the whole Penn State mess going on right now is the question of what, exactly, to do with that Joe Paterno statue up in Happy Valley. It was a rallying point when Paterno was fired from Penn State, and it was an obvious and appropriate place for an impromptu shrine when Paterno passed away.

But things, as they say, have changed.

So now what?

Legendary former Florida State coach (and longtime friendly rival to Paterno) Bobby Bowden told the Altoona Mirror's Cory Giger that Paterno's statue should come down:

Should his statue be removed? I hear that [on TV]. In my opinion, yes.

Every time somebody walks by and sees that statue, they're not going to remember the 80 good years. They're going to remember this thing with Sandusky.

And I say for Joe's sake, for the family's sake, I would remove that statue. ... I mean, just think, every time you go to a ballgame at Penn State and they shine that camera on that statue, that's going to be brought up again. So if I was Penn State and I was Joe's family, I'd say remove all that stuff.

Now let's be clear: Bowden's heart is in the right place here. It'd be one thing if he was recommending that as punishment or judgment on Paterno for his complicity in the Sandusky cover-up. But that's not the case here. Bowden's concern is that the statue's continued presence would be inappropriate for a town that's trying to move past this awful scandal. And that makes sense.

At the same time, though, that's really not Bowden's call to make. He's not a member of that community. If the statue's going to be upsetting to residents of Happy Valley and Penn State fans in general, it's their voices that need to be heard on this one. And if they want the statue to come down, that would be completely understandable.

But maybe they don't.

Maybe keeping the statue up would be a good reminder that even heroes can do terrible things when they think nobody will find out. Maybe the mix of pride and revulsion a Penn State fan will feel when he or she sees the statue would be healthier than the idolatry of the last few decades. But that's up to them.

And as for Bowden, we'll just point out that he's got his own statue of himself up at Doak Campbell Stadium. For his and Florida State's sake, we hope there's no reason for that to come down one day too.

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