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Artist paints over Paterno’s halo on mural in downtown State College

The halo on a painting of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno in a mural on a wall in downtown State College, Pa., was removed Saturday afternoon.

The halo on a painting of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno in a mural on a wall in downtown State College, Pa., was removed Saturday afternoon.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — An artist has removed a halo from a mural of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno amid the school’s child sex-abuse scandal.

Michael Pilato had put a halo over Paterno’s image after the beloved coach’s death in January, but said he felt he had to remove it Saturday after a report that Paterno, former university president Graham Spanier and others buried allegations of child sex-abuse against ex-assistant Jerry Sandusky. Paterno’s family denies the claim.

Pilato added a large blue ribbon, instead, on Paterno’s lapel symbolizing support for child abuse victims, a cause the artist said Paterno had endorsed.

Pilato earlier removed Sandusky from the downtown mural. He said he hasn’t made a decision on Spanier’s image. Spanier has not been charged. Sandusky has been convicted and is awaiting sentencing.

O'BRIEN READS REPORT: Penn State coach Bill O’Brien joined university leaders in pledging to foster integrity and accountability following former FBI director Louis Freeh’s report on the school’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

O’Brien, who succeeded the late coach Joe Paterno, said Thursday in a statement that he was reading the findings to identify changes that need to be made in the football program.

“I stand with the university leadership in a shared commitment to driving a culture of honesty, integrity, responsible leadership and accountability at all levels,” he said. “We can and we must do better.”

Freeh in the report said Paterno and other top Penn State officials buried child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky more than a decade ago to avoid bad publicity, conclusions denied by the Paterno family. Paterno died in January of lung cancer at age 85.

O’Brien said he remained “proud of the accomplishments and character of Penn State’s many generations of student-athletes, and I look forward to doing my part to ensure we emerge stronger than before.”

Paterno, Division I’s winningest coach with 409 victories, turned Penn State into one of the country’s marquee programs during his 46-year tenure which included national titles in 1982 and 1986.

Sandusky, who retired in 1999, was Paterno’s defensive coordinator on the title teams. He is awaiting sentencing after being convicted last month on 45 criminal counts.

Freeh wrote in the report that a powerful “culture of reverence” for the football program existed at the university. But President Rodney Erickson later Thursday downplayed a suggestion that football had too much power at the university under Paterno.

“I think that we should be careful that we don’t paint the entire football program over a long period of time with a single brush…these things happen in schools, in churches, in youth camps … all over,” said Erickson at a news conference in Scranton, where trustees were holding regularly-scheduled meetings.