The NCAA last month gave Joe Paterno his football wins back, but the large bronze statue of the coach that the university removed from outside Beaver Stadium two and a half years ago in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal remains in seclusion.
And a lot of people think that's wrong, if a new Quinnipiac University poll is any indication.
Of the 1,023 Pennsylvania residents polled, 59 percent said the statue of Paterno with his finger in the air in victory should be restored to a prominent place on Pennsylvania State University's campus, according to results released Wednesday morning. A quarter of those polled said it should not be restored.
The poll began Jan. 22 – one week after the NCAA in a lawsuit settlement agreed to restore 112 football victories to Penn State, 111 of them under Paterno. The NCAA had stripped the university of the wins as punishment for its role in the scandal. The wins dated to 1998, when, officials asserted, Paterno and others first saw signs of Sandusky's misconduct and ignored them.
"It appears time heals all wounds and legends get a second chance," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll. "JoePa's tarnished image may never be totally repaired, but Pennsylvanians seem to be in a forgiving mood."
The university fired Paterno as head football coach days after Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, was indicted for abusing young boys on and off Penn State's campus and the university's top leaders including Paterno subsequently were accused of conspiring to cover up the abuse. But since then the report by Louis Freeh that blamed Penn State leaders for a cover up has been widely criticized, most recently by Penn State President Eric Barron.
Still, the university hasn't made any move to restore Paterno's statue. Barron at a press conference last month declined to say when the time would be right to consider such a move. Leaders on the board of trustees have been reluctant to honor Paterno with criminal cases pending. Former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two former administrators await trial on perjury and conspiracy over allegations that they covered up Sandusky's crimes. Paterno, who died in 2012 at age 85, about two months after being fired, was never charged.
Alumni-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano, a long-time Paterno supporter, said the day the NCAA settlement was announced that he would like to see the statue restored to its original perch.
"As far as I'm concerned, that needs to happen. It needs to happen very quickly," he said at the time.
According to the poll results released Wednesday morning, support to restore the statue was equally strong among men, women and all age groups.