Beloved coach dies at age 85
February 1, 2012
Filed under Feature
Long time Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, who was fired amid a child sex abuse scandal that damaged his reputation as the winningest coach in college football history, died Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012. He was 85 years old. He was at Penn State for 61 years, and was the head coach for 45 years. His family released a statement the day of his death.
“He died as he lived,” the statement said. “He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”
Paterno was born in Brooklyn, NY and attended Brown University, where he played football as a quarterback and cornerback. Paterno originally intended on becoming a lawyer, but instead he signed on to be an assistant football coach at Penn State in 1950. After taking over as head coach in 1966, he won two national championships, in 1982 and 1986. He led the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl appearances, and had a bowl record of 24-12-1. Overall, Paterno finished with a record of 409-136-3, which is the most wins of any college football coach.
During his long tenure at Penn State, he became a beloved figure around campus. He was known for his very distinct game-day image, especially his thick glasses. The emphasis that Paterno placed on ethics and moral conduct and his philosophy on football, to meld athletics and academics, were signatures of his great coaching style. He and his wife, Sue, have donated more than $4 million to Penn State, and funded the school’s library that is named after them.
Despite all of this, Paterno did not have the happy ending at Penn State like everybody thought he would. In November 2011, his long time assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested and charged with child sex abuse. It was determined that it had been going on for a long time, and even that Paterno was informed about it in 2002. However, he did not do anything to stop it. Because of this, Paterno was fired.
Not long after Paterno was fired, he died of complications from lung cancer. Many people have speculated whether or not Paterno died purely from lung cancer. There are many theories out there that Paterno may have, in fact, died of a broken heart as well.
Due to the child sex abuse scandal that rounded out Paterno’s career at Penn State, it may be tough for most people to remember him for the great man he really was, and for all he did for Penn State.