UNIVERSITY PARK - Joe Paterno's statue outside Beaver Stadium remains - for now, with a security guard standing watch nearby - and former Penn State players from Altoona weighed in on the national debate Friday about whether it should stay there.
No one contacted by the Mirror feels more strongly about it than former PSU and NFL linebacker John Ebersole.
"I'm still a firm believer Joe never knew what was all going on, so if they tear down the statue I think they're crazy," Ebersole said by phone Friday from South Carolina.
The statue issue has been a major national topic since the Freeh report on the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal was released Thursday morning. When told many people around the country have been saying the statue should come down, Ebersole said, "I think they're crazy."
"We'll never know the true story," the Altoona native added. "And Joe is Penn State. I mean, it's never going to change with me. I'll admire the guy until the end."
Paterno was implicated in the Freeh report as having been part of a cover up by Penn State officials when they learned of allegations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001.
Ebersole, who played for Paterno at PSU in the late 1960s, went on to play eight seasons in the NFL and later became a Blair County commissioner, was asked if keeping the statue up would serve as a reminder of the Sandusky scandal.
"The people who don't believe in Paterno might be reminded of [the scandal]," he said. "But the people that believe in Paterno, like I do, it's not going to be an issue with us."
Mike Reid, a former PSU star and Altoona native who went on to become a Grammy Award winner, said it's still too early and emotions are too raw for people to be deciding what to do about the statue just yet.
"Emotions are at their peak at the moment and ... I think it's always bad to make decisions when emotions are highest," Reid said by phone from Tennessee. "So I don't think a decision should be made about it now."
Reid does believe a decision will need to be made by the start of football season in September.
"We're in a horrible place at the moment. We're in a horrible place," he said. "Nobody can get their mind around this. Nobody can get their thoughts, can think clearly about how this has shaken out. Of all the difficulties you might find a university encountering ... this wouldn't even make a list of 500 things. It's just unimaginable."
Reid played at PSU in the late 1960s - he remains the only Nittany Lion to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation's best interior lineman - and spent five seasons in the NFL. He offered some philosophical words about the allure of money and power.
"Every human being is subject to the seductions of money and power and the potential arrogance that can grow from that," he said. "And it's very easy, as human beings, it's very easy for people to simply lose sight of who the hell they really are.
"Money and power is a load. It's a load for a human being to deal with. If you're not careful, man it can blindside you in a way that is unimaginable. And in my view, that's what we're going through here."
Asked if he thinks his money and power comments applied specifically to Paterno, Reid paused for more than 10 seconds before starting to answer, then paused another 10 seconds and let out a deep breath. He clearly wanted to make sure he found the right words.
"Perhaps," Reid said. "I haven't been in touch enough to know whether it did or not. If this report is true - and I have no reason to think Louis Freeh has any ax to grind with anyone here that they reported their findings - then perhaps the university and sums of money are a powerful thing. I don't know. I don't know.
"I do know this: Joe Paterno was not God. He's a human being, he's man."
Brad Benson played at PSU in the mid-1970s before spending 10 years in the NFL. The Altoona native said he agreed with Reid about how it's still too early to decide the statue's fate.
"There's a part of me says that it probably should come down, but part of me says that they should wait to make a decision," Benson said by phone from Dallas. "They can always take it down. I think it would be difficult to put it back up."
Benson wonders if Paterno truly understood and was capable of understanding "the full depths of what went on" when he found out allegations about Sandusky. Paterno was 71 when the 1998 allegations surfaced, but Benson believes the late coach had a "young mind" because he was still around young football players.
Benson wants to wait until the evidence from all ongoing investigations comes in before ultimately deciding the fate of the statue.
"If in fact that it turns out that Joe did cover this up, if he definitively knew, that they conclude that he definitively knew that young boys were being raped and he definitely made an effort - and I mean definitively - made an effort to not have it reported and not have Jerry Sandusky brought to justice, if that is definitive and everybody is absolutely sure, then I think [the statue] should come down," Benson said.
Mike Irwin, Paterno's first captain in 1966, believes the statue should remain up and ultimately will remain up when all is said and done.
"I'm loyal to Joe Paterno, so I would say I'd like to see it stay up," Irwin said.
He also believes any decision concerning the statue should be made at a later time, after all the facts come out.
Irwin has read the Freeh report but does not believe it tells the entire story of Paterno's involvement in the scandal.
"I don't think he had any idea that Jerry Sandusky would have been that involved," Irwin said. "I don't think he realized that Jerry was a pedophile at that time."