Earlier this month local artist Michael Palito removed a halo he'd painted over the figure of Paterno in his mural "Inspire" at the request of Paterno's widow, Sue, after the release of The Freeh Report. There is, of course, debate about this report but Louis Freeh, head of the FBI from 1993 to 2001, is a man who knows how to dot his i's and cross his t's.
The removal of the statue and painting over of the halo are symbolic speech. The real speech about Paterno's legacy for the short term is going to come tomorrow morning at 9 when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announces what sanctions they're planning to levy against Penn State. It's being reported today that the football program will avoid "the death penalty," which is a punishment the NCAA metes out to member programs that shuts a program down for a year or more. It's been used only five times and only once against a football team (Southern Methodist University for the 1987 season) and that was for recruiting violations. The NCAA is calling their punishment of Penn State "unprecedented."
Jerry Sandusky will be sentenced at the earliest in late September. Since the June 22 verdict that found him guilty on 45 of 48 counts three other men have come forward to police to allege abuse in the 70s and 80s. There have been attempts to link this case to the disappearance of Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar in 2005. Former Chair of the PSU Board of Trustees Steve Garban resigned earlier this week.
The truth will come out. I'd love to say that it always does but we all know that's not true. What's happening now at Penn State is not just a lesson in not erecting statues too early. It's also a lesson in not turning away when it's your turn to stand up.