Penn State football alumni shake their heads at statue's removal

Just after the scandal broke, Penn State and Nebraska players kneel together and pray before the start of their game at Beaver Stadium in State College, on Nov. 12 of last year. DAVID SWANSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Just after the scandal broke, Penn State and Nebraska players kneel together and pray before the start of their game at Beaver Stadium in State College, on Nov. 12 of last year. DAVID SWANSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Posted: July 24, 2012

IN THE HOURS after Penn State swept in to remove the bronze reminder of the past nine troubling months, dismay was the overarching theme with alumni of the football program.

Many understood the difficulty of a decision to remove Joe Paterno's statue Sunday, but they were saddened by the circumstances surrounding their program and its tarnished reputation.

Lydell Sargeant, who played for the Nittany Lions from 2006-2008 and interned for Associate Athletic Director Fran Ganter during the spring of 2011, said that the statue's removal was made more complex by Paterno's inability to respond.

"It's interesting because they have the Paterno Library and the care center that Joe and Sue put together," Sargeant said. "In my opinion it's hard to judge how you take down one but not all three if you are taking his character into account. I think taking down the statue separates football from everything else, which might have been the problem in the first place. I can't say I was on one side or the other."

Not all former players were supportive of the university's decision. Bruce Bannon, who played linebacker at Penn State and was named an All-American in 1972 before spending two years with the Miami Dolphins, questioned the administration's motives.

"I wasn't really in favor of the statue being removed," Bannon said. "I just don't agree with their decision. I think they're doing what is the right thing to do financially."

Many other former Penn State players voiced their frustrations Sunday over Twitter. Michael Robinson, who was named Big 10 Player of the Year and voted a Heisman finalist in 2005, was adamant that the university was making a mistake, tweeting, "Why is my school rushing to judgment? Why not let ALL facts come out? Freeh report was not done by courts, he was HIRED. Think about that."

Even a part of Penn State's future generation of Nittany Lions had something to say. Adam Breneman, who is one of Penn State's top recruits in the class of 2013, spoke out in favor of his university. The tight end also defended assistant coach Mike McQueary.

"Coach McQueary was my recruiting coach and we were very close," Breneman said. "I talked to him every week until the day before he was placed on leave. Then the next day the whole national media is talking about what a terrible person he is. I knew Coach McQueary really well and he was not a bad person."

Breneman added that with or without Paterno's statue, the only thing that can be controlled at Penn State is the way the university community responds.

"It's a tough situation, but I think my recruiting class has taken the mind-set that we're all moving past it," Breneman said. "We are the new beginning for Penn State."

Contact Daniel Carp at carpd@phillynews.com.

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