UNIVERSITY PARK - Clothing racks and downtown stores are still stocked with "Joe knows football" T-shirts. The Pattee and Paterno Library still bears the former coach's name above the Curtin Road entrance. Peachy Paterno ice cream, available by the scoop or carton, is still chilling in the Berkey Creamery's freezers.
And the statue of Penn State's late football coach, a 7-foot tall bronze sentinel frozen mid-stride, finger outstretched to the sky, remains outside Beaver Stadium.
But the fate of the Joe Paterno statue - and a part of Paterno's legacy at the institution where he served as head coach for 46 years - is expected to be decided by Penn State President Rodney Erickson in 72 hours.
Internet rumors swirled throughout Friday that the decision could come even sooner, and perhaps even as early as this morning.
ESPN.com reported that members of the Paterno family, including Sue Paterno, visited the statue Friday night.
Backlash and criticism of the former coach's handling of the Jerry Sandusky investigation, as well as support and defense of his legacy, has swelled in the days since former FBI Director Louis Freeh's report condemning the failure of Penn State's senior leadership in stopping the now-convicted child molester.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Fans create a line to visit and pose with the Joe Paterno statue outside of Beaver Stadium on Friday.
Public outcry reached a new height Tuesday when an airplane trailing a large banner circled State College and the Penn State campus.
"Take the statue down or we will," the message read.
The plane continued its flyover Wednesday and Thursday. The company responsible for the flyover would not disclose who financed the banner.
The statue, which served as a rallying point for students during pivotal moments in the unfolding Sandusky scandal, once again became the focus of Penn State's staunchest supporters and harshest critics.
The move seemingly prompted Erickson to respond Tuesday, declaring the fate of the statue would be decided within seven to 10 days. A day later, Penn State spokesman David La Torre said no new update on the status of the statue was available.
But early Friday, multiple news outlets reported Penn State's Board of Trustees voted via teleconference the day before and the statue would be removed sometime over the weekend.
Various trustees denied the report, claiming no decision on the statue's fate had been reached yet. Trustees instead claimed Erickson was asked to provide an update on the statue decision, but none had been reached at the time.
Trustees spoke on condition of anonymity because the board discussion was private.
Hours later, multiple news outlets reported a decision would be made within 72 hours - prompting a sizable crowd to gather outside Beaver Stadium, posing and snapping pictures at the statue.
Representatives from Penn State did not return requests for comment Friday evening.
The renewed focus on the Paterno statue following the release of the Freeh report has drawn criticism from many individuals - including the man who sculpted Paterno's likeness.
"I think we should all wait on it. Put a cover on it," sculptor Angelo Di Maria said. "Let's see how everyone feels in six months ... or a year."
"All the focus is on the statue right now, but horrible crimes were committed," Di Maria said. "Let's move on away from Joe Paterno. He's gone, he's passed on."
The statue, weighing more than 900 pounds, was erected in 2001 in honor of Paterno's record-setting 324th Division I coaching victory and his "contributions to the university."
Earlier in the week, some students decided the banner plane circling overhead was a serious threat of vandalism and swore to guard the statue from damage. Since Tuesday evening the group has intermittently camped out beside the statue, keeping watch as Penn State auxiliary police patrol the area.
"We basically started it to show our support for JoePa and the Paterno family," Penn State senior Kevin Ryan Berkon said. "We can only imagine they're really struggling now with how everything is going."
The students, at one point numbering 10, are guarding the statue against vandalism, Berkon said. The students are not protesting any action taken by the board regarding the statue and are simply protecting it from vandals, he said.
"It's something that now people want to a mockery of," Berkon said of the statue. "I think that the statue, to us, that's JoePa to us. When he died, as students, we rallied around that statue because that's what we see as Joe."
One possible outcome is relocating the statue inside the Penn State All-Sports Museum, only a few hundred feet from its current location on Porter Road, Berkon added.
The statue has served as a rallying point for students since news of the scandal first rocked the university community.
Students rallied simultaneously outside Beaver Stadium and the Paterno's State College residence the night Paterno was fired by Penn State's board.
Following the coach's death, students and alumni again gathered outside Beaver Stadium leaving flowers, candles and memorabilia surrounding the statue.
During a July 19 news conference in Philadelphia, Freeh indicated Paterno was made aware of a 1998 incident involving Sandusky and a young boy in a Lasch Football Building shower. According to Freeh, after speaking with Paterno about the incident, athletic director Tim Curley told then-Vice President for Finance Gary Schultz and former university President Graham Spanier that he was uncomfortable reporting the incident to authorities.
The failure to report Sandusky led to more victims being assaulted by the former defensive coordinator, officials said.
Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 counts of sexually abusing 10 young boys on June 22. He faces a lifetime in prison.
But Paterno never testified at Sandusky's trial. The 85-year-old coach died Jan. 22 from lung cancer. In a final interview, Paterno said he wished he had done more to protect the children.
Engraved on the wall behind Paterno's statue are the words: "They asked me what I'd like written about me when I'm gone. I hope they write I've made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach."
The words - and the statue itself, remained unmoved Friday night.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535. The Associated Press contributed to this report.