STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The famed statue of Joe Paterno was taken down from outside the Pennsylvania State University football stadium Sunday, eliminating a key piece of the iconography surrounding the once-sainted football coach accused of burying child sex abuse allegations against a retired assistant.
Workers lifted the 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.
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."
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.
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," Mr. Erickson said in a statement released at 7 a.m. Sunday.
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He said Mr. 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 bronze sculpture outside Beaver Stadium has been a rallying point for students and alumni, but it turned into a target for critics after the Freeh report's stunning allegation of a cover-up by Mr. Paterno, ousted President Graham Spanier and two Penn State officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz. Their failure to report Mr. Sandusky to child-welfare authorities in 2001 allowed him to continue molesting boys, the report found.
The statue, nearly 7 feet tall and weighing more than 900 pounds, was built in 2001 in honor of Mr. Paterno's record-setting 324th Division 1 coaching victory and his "contributions to the university."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press