Written by: Shauna Bannan
Joe Paterno, former Penn State University head football coach and admired figure among collegiate sports, whose reputation was shattered amid a child sexual-abuse scandal, died Sunday of complications from lung cancer.
The death was announced by his family in a statement Sunday morning.
“He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been,” the family said. “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.”
He was readmitted to Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College on Jan. 13, nearly a month after being released from suffering a pelvis injury. His cancer treatments were “really taking a lot out of him,” a family friend said.
Paterno served as head coach for 46 years, winning a record 409 games with five undefeated and untied seasons and two national championships. He became the winngingest head coach in Division I football history on Oct. 29, 2011. The game was the last of 548 games Paterno coached.
Within days, Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s defensive coordinator, was arrested on multiple charges of sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year time span, some at the time he served on the staff. The alleged incidents occurred outside the Second Mile, a charity to help at-risk youths, founded by Sandusky.
Trustees believed that Paterno should have taken further action to have Sandusky arrested after hearing information that the former defensive coordinator assaulted a young boy in the shower, witnessed by former assistant coach Mike McQueary. Paterno said he had informed Tim Curley, the athletic director, about the incident, but did not alert law enforcement authorities.
He announced his plans to retire at the conclusion of the season, but the school’s board of trustees fired Paterno on Nov. 9, 2011, enraging Penn State students, alumni, and fans throughout the nation. Assistant coach Mike McQueary and athletic director Tim Curley were fired as well.
“This is a tragedy,” Paterno said in a statement. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
Paterno is survived by his wife, Sue, and five children, all graduates from Penn State. His devotion and great efforts as a coach and symbol have left Penn State University, as well as the nation, in shambles.