By Daniel Kelley
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Pennsylvania residents overwhelmingly support restoration of the Joe Paterno statue on Penn State’s campus, according to a new survey by Quinnipiac University.
In a poll of 1,023 residents, 59 percent support putting the statue of the famed football coach in a “place of prominence,” while 25 percent oppose such a move.
Paterno was a legendary figure on Penn State’s campus, who saw his reputation left in tatters in the wake of child sex abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky, his former defensive football coach.
Sandusky, 70, is serving 30 to 60 years in prison after being convicted of molesting 10 boys. Officials at Penn State, including Paterno, drew withering criticism for not taking action after being alerted that Sandusky was sexually abusing children, sometimes in locker room showers.
The university removed its 7-foot statue of Paterno following Sandusky’s conviction in 2012. At the time, it was bracing for crippling sanctions from the NCAA, under which the university was fined $60 million and saw 111 of Paterno’s wins with the Nittany Lions vacated.
Paterno died of lung cancer in January 2012 at the age of 85 shortly after the university fired him.
But a die-hard contingent of believers worked tirelessly to get the statue back and restore Paterno’s legacy, citing his major financial donations to the school to build libraries, and his commitment to high academic standards for student athletes.
In January, the NCAA reversed the sanctions against the school and restored Paterno’s recordas the winningest coach in major college football to settle a lawsuit by a state senator and the state’s treasurer.
The NCAA agreed to restore 112 wins – 111 of which were Paterno’s – to Penn State’s record.
The settlement with the NCAA is slightly more popular than restoring the statue. By a margin of nearly 50 percent, 64 percent of the state’s residents support the settlement, while 15 percent oppose it.
The poll was conducted from Jan. 22 to Feb. 1 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Eric Walsh)