Last year, the NCAA gave back former Penn State coach Joe Paterno's football wins, vacated following the Jerry Sandusky child-abuse scandal. But so far the iconic bronze statue of the beloved coach that was removed from outside Beaver Stadium in 2012 remains hidden in a "secure location"
Penn State fans and the late coach's family may soon be able to see new replica statues that look nearly identical to the original. Paterno's upraised right hand, originally cast in a "Number One" gesture, will now be a defiantly clenched fist.
Yesid Gomez and Wilfer Buitrago, two cousins who did the casting work on the original Paterno statue based on a sculpture by Reading artist Angelo Di Maria, said Sunday they are hard at work in a secret location in the Lancaster County borough of Ephrata, creating two brand-new statues - this time with no approval from Penn State, the Paterno family or Di Maria. One of the replicas will be donated to the Paterno family and the other will be displayed for Penn State faithful at various locations.
"Penn State should have given us the courtesy of contacting us when they removed the statue and letting us know where it is," Gomez told Philly.com. "Instead, they are not responding to us, so we decided to bring the statue back again."
Di Maria, contacted Sunday, declined to comment on the new statues.
The original statue, 7-feet tall and weighing nearly 1,000 pounds, was commissioned by Paterno friends in his honor. It was installed outside the stadium in 2001 with bas-relief sculptures of football players mounted to the wall behind the statue, also designed by Di Maria. All were removed after the Sandusky scandal, with then-Penn State president Rodney Erickson saying the statue had become a "source of division and an obstacle to healing" would be a "recurring wound" to all child-abuse victims if it were to remain.
This time, Gomez and Buitrago are self-financing the $100,000 project. After giving one statue to the Paternos, they intend the second to travel to Beaver Stadium "for all the fans and the people that bleed blue and white" and to different locations and museums around the country.
Neither artist has spoken to the Paterno family or to Di Maria, who also holds the copyright on the original design. Gomez said that doesn't concern him.
"If I were going to be worried, I wouldn't be making it," Gomez said.
Requests for comment about the new statue from Penn State and the Paterno family weren't immediately returned.
Gomez said finishing the clay sculpture should take about another month and that it will take about four to five more months to cast it in bronze. Gomez estimates it will cost $50,000 each to create the two statues.
"At this point, we don't have a sponsor," said Gomez. "We're not worried about money, we're worried about making a statement."