STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- More than 200 Penn State football lettermen petitioned the university on Tuesday for the return of an iconic bronze Joe Paterno statue that was removed in the summer of 2012 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.
The former players and coaches, who span every decade since the 1950s, also made two other demands: return the wall that rested behind the statue and celebrated Penn State accomplishments, and issue a formal apology to Paterno's widow.
"Joe Paterno has been cast in a negative light," the letter writer, former tight end/punter Brian Masella, told ESPN, "and we're trying to correct that narrative. The university has ignored us over and over again."
The university released a statement in response to the letter, saying, "We appreciate the passion of our former Penn State lettermen for Coach Joe Paterno and the football program, and thank them for their input and many contributions/achievements. We recognize that this is emotional for many in the Penn State community, many of whom differ, yet feel strongly about this issue.
"The University's leadership has clearly indicated that there will be a time and place to acknowledge Coach Joe Paterno's many contributions. Any plans by the president to reach out to the Paterno family will be done privately."
The statue has been a lightning rod of controversy since its removal four years ago. Fans continue to leave flowers and knickknacks at the former site of the statue, and many see the statue as a symbol of Paterno's legacy.
Masella said the lettermen are not looking to compromise and would not be satisfied if the statue appeared elsewhere on campus, such as the All-Sports Museum inside the football stadium. The statue is currently out of sight in what the university has previously referred to as a "secure location."
"Our feeling is it should go back where it was located on Porter Road," Masella said.
Former Penn State players who added their names to the letter include Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny and 1973 Heisman winner John Cappelletti.