Joe Paterno, 85, died today of complications from lung cancer treatment in State College, Pa., where he coached the Penn State Nittany Lions to two national titles in a Division I-record 409 games.
His family announced:
It is with great sadness that we announce that Joe Paterno passed away earlier today. His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled. 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. 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.
Beloved within the Penn State community, JoePa arrived on campus as assistant coach in 1950, taking over head coaching duties in 1966. He went on to become the winningest college football coach in history.
His tenure came to a disappointing end in November, 2011, when Penn State administration fired him in the fallout from child sex abuse charges against former Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky. He gave his first post-retirement interview to the Washington Post last week, stating “shock and sadness” about the Sandusky charges, along with a belief that he did the best he could do within University procedures.
Paterno was not charged with any crime, but was nonetheless held accountable for not reporting the allegations against Sandusky to the police.
I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was. So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.
Paterno was well known for calling PSU football coaching his “Grand Experiment” — a merging of athletics and schoolwork that resulted in “success with honor.”
He is survived by his wife, Suzanne, and five children, all graduates of Penn State.