Erickson says he does not plan to suspend Penn State football
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Hours after a plane circling above State College was calling for the removal of Joe Paterno's bronze statue, Penn State University president Rodney Erickson said a decision on the memorial's future could be announced within 10 days.
Mr. Erickson addressed the controversy surrounding how to portray Mr. Paterno's legacy and other hurdles facing the university during a twenty-minute interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tuesday afternoon.
The interview was part of a packed schedule of meetings with reporters as the university attempts to rebuild its public image following last week's devastating report.
That document, assembled by former FBI director Louis Freeh, concluded that Penn State officials concealed accusations that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused boys in order to avoid negative publicity.
Mr. Paterno was implicated along with former president Graham Spanier, retired university vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley, as key figures in the decisions to hide Mr. Sandusky's actions from the public.
The long-time head football coach died in January, and was not interviewed by Mr. Freeh's team.
Mr. Erickson, who was promoted from his role as provost in the days after Mr. Sandusky's November arrest, said he is consulting with advisers on the President's Council and "key members" of the board of trustees as to what type of association the university should have with Mr. Paterno's name and legacy.
Cries have grown louder in recent days to remove the statue of Mr. Paterno that has been located outside Beaver Stadium since 2001. While the plane spotted above campus today carried a banner reading, "Take The Statue Down or We Will," visitors posing for pictures there this afternoon said removing it would be short-sighted.
"We're hearing a lot from alumni and others around the country," Mr. Erickson said. "There are individuals on various sides of the issue and some in the middle."
He added that the university will need to decide sooner rather than later how it will portray Mr. Paterno and his six decades of coaching at Penn State, saying that "this is not something that we'll want to let hang out there for a long time."
Mr. Erickson also said the university will be working with the NCAA on an appropriate response to the actions that occurred on campus. The NCAA sent a letter in November seeking information from the university, but allowed Penn State officials to delay their response until the Freeh report was completed.
"There will almost certainly be some sort of action of some kind that's taken by the NCAA," Mr. Erickson said. "I have no knowledge of what that's likely to be at this point."
NCAA president Mark Emmert said Monday that the governing body had not ruled out the possibility of imposing unprecedented and severe sanctions on Penn State, potentially including suspending the football program.
Mr. Erickson said he has not considered suspending the football program. He added that the university will be alerting NCAA officials to the policy changes that they've already enacted in response.
"It would have major consequences, not just for football but for the entire athletic program," he said of a potential program suspension.
First Published July 17, 2012 6:49 pm