Bobby Bowden, one of Joe Paterno's closest friends in the coaching ranks for 50 years, believes Paterno no longer deserves to have a statue outside of Beaver Stadium.
"Should his statue be removed? I hear that [on TV]. In my opinion, yes," Bowden, former head coach at Florida State, said by phone Thursday.
Bowden said for Penn State to move forward from the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, it cannot have such a visible and symbolic reminder of Paterno outside the stadium.
"Every time somebody walks by and sees that statue, they're not going to remember the 80 good years," Bowden said. "They're going to remember this thing with Sandusky.
"And I say for Joe's sake, for the family's sake, I would remove that statue. ... I mean, just think, every time you go to a ballgame at Penn State and they shine that camera on that statue, that's going to be brought up again. So if I was Penn State and I was Joe's family, I'd say remove all that stuff."
Paterno compiled a record 409 wins during his career, while Bowden is second in Division I history with 377 victories.
Bowden, who first met Paterno in 1962, said the late Penn State coach's legacy will vary among different groups of people.
"You're going to have people that knew him personally much of his life that are going to remember him for the way he was most of his life," Bowden said. "And then there comes this last thing that happened. It's really going to hurt his legacy."
Bowden said he was shocked, like many others who have followed Paterno's career over the years, to find out details of the Freeh report that the late coach helped cover up the Sandusky scandal.
"That's not the way we knew him," Bowden said. "Joe was always a guy that knew where he was, he knew what needed to be done and he never shied away from a decision. And for this to happen is just so unbecoming, it's hard for me and people who knew him personally ... to accept it."
The man depicted in the Freeh report is not the man Bowden thought he knew.
"It is so unbecoming of Joe," Bowden said. "It's just so unbecoming. I've known him since 1962, and I've always looked up to him, and I still do. I looked up to him as a man who's infallible, who just did everything right except one disastrous mistake, and that's not reporting that thing to the proper authorities."
Bowden said he was hoping that when the facts of the case were revealed, that they would have shown Paterno was not aware of the allegations against Sandusky.
"It looks like the facts are different, and I'm just sorry that he and his family have to go through this," Bowden said. "But let me say this: That's not as sorry as I am for those young men that for 10 years got sexually abused when it could have been stopped."
Mirror Staff Writer Cory Giger is at 949-7031.