Paterno's widow, Sue, and two of the Paternos' children visited the statue Friday as students and fans lined up to get their pictures taken with the landmark. The statue, weighing more than 900 pounds, was built in 2001 in honor of Paterno's record-setting 324th Division I coaching victory and his "contributions to the university."
Penn State President Rod Erickson said he decided to have the statue removed and put into storage because it "has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing."
"I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse," Erickson said in a statement.
Construction vehicles and police arrived shortly after dawn Sunday, barricading the street and sidewalks near the statue, erecting a chain-link fence then concealing the statue with a blue tarp. Workers then used jackhammers to free the statue and a forklift to lower it onto a flat-bed truck that rolled into stadium garage bay about 100 feet away.
Many of those watching the removal stared in disbelief and at least one woman wept, while others expressed anger at the decision.
"I think it was an act of cowardice on the part of the university," Mary Trometter of Williamsport, who wore a shirt bearing Joe Paterno's image. She said she felt betrayed by university officials, saying they promised openness but said nothing about the decision until just before the removal work began.
Dozens later gathered to watch and listen to the sound of sawing, scraping and shoveling as white-helmeted workers behind tarpaulins removed Paterno's name and various plaques from the walls behind where the statue had stood. Shortly before midday, all that appeared to remain was the bare concrete and stone.
Much of the work was hidden by blue tarps strung across temporary chain link fences while barricades kept observers on the other side of the street. Few watching said they understood the decision and feared what kind of punishment the NCAA would pile on.