Joe Paterno, American college football coach (Penn State Nittany Lions), died from lung cancer he was 85
Joseph Vincent “Joe” Paterno , sometimes referred to as “JoePa,” was an American college football coach who was the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions from 1966 to 2011 died from lung cancer he was 85.. His career ended with his dismissal from the team for his role in the Penn State child sex abuse scandal.
Paterno was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended Brown University, where he played football both as the quarterback and a cornerback.
Originally planning to be a lawyer, he instead signed on as an
assistant football coach at Penn State in 1950, persuaded by his college
coach Rip Engle
who had taken over as Penn State’s head coach. In 1966, Paterno was
named as Engle’s successor. He soon coached the team to two undefeated
regular seasons in 1968 and 1969. The team won two national championships—in 1982 and 1986. Paterno coached five undefeated teams that won major bowl games and, in 2007, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame
as a coach. In all, he led the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl appearances
with 24 wins (six of them later vacated) while turning down offers to
coach NFL teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots.
In November 2011, he was fired by the university as a result of the
child sex abuse scandal involving his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. An investigation conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh concluded in July 2012 that Paterno concealed facts relating to Sandusky’s sexual abuse of young boys.
The investigation also uncovered information that Paterno may have
persuaded university officials not to report Sandusky to authorities in
2001. On July 23, 2012, the NCAA
vacated all of Penn State’s wins from 1998 through 2011 as part of its
punishment for the child sex abuse scandal, eliminating 111 of the games
Paterno had coached and won, dropping him from second to 12th on the list of winningest NCAA football coaches.
Paterno died of complications from lung cancer on January 22, 2012.
Paterno was born December 21, 1926, in Brooklyn,
New York, and throughout his life he spoke with a marked Brooklyn
accent. He was the son of Florence de LaSalle Cafiero, a homemaker, and
Angelo Lafayette Paterno, a law clerk. His family was of Italian ancestry. In 1944, Paterno graduated from the old Brooklyn Preparatory School.
Six weeks later he was drafted into the Army. Paterno spent a year in
the Army before being discharged in time to start the 1946 school year
at Brown University where his tuition was paid by Busy Arnold.
In college Paterno was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Upsilon chapter). He played quarterback and cornerback for the Brown Bears, and shares the career record for interceptions with Greg Parker at 14.
Paterno graduated in 1950. Although his father asked, “For God’s sake,
what did you go to college for?” after hearing of his career choice, Paterno joined Rip Engle
as an assistant coach at Penn State in 1950; Engle had coached five
seasons, 1944–1949, at Brown. Engle announced his retirement in February
1966, and Paterno was named his successor.
Paterno’s abbreviated 2011 season
was his 62nd on the Penn State coaching staff, which gave him the
record for most seasons for any football coach at a single university.
The 2009 season was Paterno’s 44th as head coach of the Nittany Lions, passing Amos Alonzo Stagg for the most years as head coach at a single institution in Division I.
Paterno was known for his gameday image—thick glasses, rolled-up
dress slacks (by his admission, to save on cleaning bills), white socks
and Brooklyn-tinged speech. Reflecting the growth in Penn State’s stature during his tenure, Beaver Stadium was expanded six times during his tenure, increasing in size from 46,284 in 1966 to 106,572 in 2001.
In 1995, Paterno apologized for a tirade directed at Rutgers then-head coach Doug Graber at the end of a nationally televised game. Paterno was accused of “making light of sexual assault” in 2006 by the National Organization for Women
which called for his resignation, though Penn State later categorized
this incident as being “taken out of context” and never seriously
considered asking for Paterno’s resignation. Paterno also was involved in a road rage incident in 2007.
As Penn State football struggled from 2000 to 2004, with an overall
26–33 record in those years, Paterno became the target of criticism from
some Penn State faithful. Many in the media attributed Penn State’s
struggles to Paterno’s advancing age. With no apparent plans to retire,
contingents of fans and alumni began calling for him to step down.
Paterno rebuffed all of this and stated he would fulfill his contract
which would expire in 2008.
Paterno announced in a speech in Pittsburgh on May 12, 2005, that he would consider retirement if the 2005 football team
had a disappointing season. “If we don’t win some games, I’ve got to
get my rear end out of here”, Paterno said in a speech at the Duquesne
Club. “Simple as that”. However, Penn State finished the season with a record of 11–1 and were champions of the Big Ten in 2005. They defeated Florida State 26–23 in triple overtime in the 2006 Orange Bowl. In 2012 the conference championship and Orange Bowl victory were disallowed by the NCAA.
In 2008, due to a litany of football players’ off-the-field legal
problems, including 46 Penn State football players having faced 163
criminal charges according to an ESPN analysis of Pennsylvania court
records and reports dating to 2002,
ESPN questioned Joe Paterno’s and the university’s control over the
Penn State football program by producing and airing an ESPN’s Outside the Lines feature covering the subject. Paterno was criticized for his response dismissing the allegations as a “witch hunt“, and chiding reporters for asking about problems.
The Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) revealed Paterno’s salary in November 2007: $512,664. He was paid $490,638 in 2006.
The figure was not inclusive of other compensation, such as money from
television and apparel contracts as well as other bonuses that Paterno
and other football bowl subdivision coaches earned, said Robert Gentzel,
SERS communications director.
The release of these amounts can only come at the university’s
approval, which Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said will not happen.
“I’m paid well, I’m not overpaid,” Paterno said during an interview
with reporters Wednesday before the salary disclosure. “I got all the
money I need”.
Bowls and championships
Joe Paterno holds an official NCAA total of 18 bowl victories. He holds the NCAA record for total bowl appearances with 37. Before the NCAA sanctions, he had a bowl record of 24 wins, 12 losses, and 1 tie following a defeat in the 2011 Outback Bowl.
Paterno was the only coach with the distinction of having won each of
the four major bowls—Rose, Orange, Fiesta, and Sugar—as well as the
Cotton Bowl Classic, at least once. Including the 2012 NCAA sanctions,
Penn State won at least 3 bowl games in each of the 3 decades between
1970 and 1997.
Paterno led Penn State to two national championships
(1982 and 1986) and five undefeated, untied seasons (1968, 1969, 1973,
1986, and 1994). Four of his unbeaten teams (1968, 1969, 1973, and 1994)
won major bowl games and were not awarded a national championship.
Penn State under Paterno won the Orange Bowl (1968, 1969, and 1973 (with a 2005 win vacated*)), the Cotton Bowl Classic (1972 and 1974), the Fiesta Bowl (1977, 1980, 1981, 1986, 1991, and 1996), the Liberty Bowl (1979), the Sugar Bowl (1982), the Aloha Bowl (1983), the Holiday Bowl (1989), the Citrus Bowl (1993 (with the 2010 win vacated*)), the Rose Bowl (1994), the Outback Bowl (1995 (with the 1998 & 2006 wins vacated*)) and the Alamo Bowl (1999 (with the 2007 win vacated*)).
After Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference in 1993, the Nittany Lions under Paterno won the Big Ten championship
one time (1994), with the NCAA stripping away the 2005 and 2008 shared
championships in their July, 2012 sanctions. Paterno had 29 finishes in
the Top 10 national rankings.
Awards and honors
- Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year – 1986
- Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award (United States Sports Academy (USSA)) – 1989, 2001
- Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (AFCA) – 2002
- AFCA Coach of the Year – 1968, 1978, 1982, 1986, 2005
- Associated Press College Football Coach of the Year Award – 2005
- Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award – 1981, 2005
- Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year – 1978, 1982, 1986
- George Munger Award (Div. I Coach of the Year) – 1990, 1994, 2005
- Paul “Bear” Bryant Award – 1986
- Sporting News College Football Coach of the Year – 2005
- The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award – 2005
- Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award – 1972, 1994, 2005
- Dave McClain Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year – 1994, 2005, 2008
- NCAA Gerald R. Ford Award – 2011 (revoked by NCAA)
On May 16, 2006, Paterno was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame
after the National Football Foundation decided to change its rules and
allow any coach over the age of 75 to be eligible for the Hall of Fame
instead of having to wait until retirement. However, on November 4, 2006 he was injured during a sideline collision during a game against Wisconsin.
As a result of his injuries, he was unable to travel to the induction
ceremonies in New York City and the National Football Foundation
announced that he would instead be inducted as a part of the Hall of
Fame class of 2007. Paterno was inducted on December 4, 2007, and officially enshrined in a ceremony held July 19, 2008.
In 2009, Paterno was named to Sporting News‘
list of the 50 greatest coaches of all time (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL,
college basketball, and college football). He is listed in position 13.
In 2010, the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia established the Joseph V. Paterno Award,
to be awarded annually to the college football coach “who has made a
positive impact on his university, his players and his community.” Following the breaking of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal the following year, the award was discontinued by the club.
Also in 2010, the Big Ten Conference
established the Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy as the annual trophy
to be awarded to the winner of the conference football championship. However, on November 14, 2011, the trophy name was changed to the Stagg Championship Trophy in light of the Sandusky child abuse scandal.
Paterno was also nominated for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. However, in light of the Sandusky child abuse scandal, United States Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey, Jr., as well as Representative Glenn Thompson withdrew their support of Paterno receiving the honor.
Child sex abuse scandal and dismissal
On November 5, 2011, former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky
was arrested on 40 counts of child sexual abuse occurring between 1994
and 2009, including allegations of incidents on the Penn State campus. A 2011 grand jury investigation reported that then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary told Paterno in 2002 (prosecutors later amended the date to 2001) that he had seen Sandusky abusing a 10-year-old boy in Penn State football’s shower facilities.
According to the report, Paterno notified Athletic Director Tim Curley
about the incident, and later notified Gary Schultz, Vice President of
Finance and Business, who also oversaw the University Police.
Paterno said McQueary informed him that “he had witnessed an incident
in the shower… but he at no time related to me the very specific
actions contained in the Grand Jury report.”
In his Grand Jury testimony, Paterno stated that McQueary had described
Sandusky “fondling” a young boy in an act he described of a “sexual
nature,” but stopped short of the graphic rape to which McQueary would
While the prosecutors did not accuse Paterno of any wrongdoing, he was
criticized for his failure to follow up on McQueary’s report. The victim in the 2001 incident was identified in July 2012. Sandusky continued to have access to the university’s athletic facilities until his arrest in November 2011. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly
said that Paterno was cooperative with prosecutors and that he met his
statutory responsibility to report the 2001 incident to school
administrators. Pennsylvania State Police
Commissioner Frank Noonan opined that while Paterno did not violate any
laws, anyone with knowledge of possible sexual abuse against minors had
a “moral responsibility” to notify police.
Despite the nature of the 2001 incident that McQueary told Paterno he
witnessed in the showers, Paterno did not notify state police.
On the night of November 8, hundreds of students gathered in front on
Paterno’s home in support of the coach. Paterno thanked the crowd and
said, “The kids who were victims or whatever they want to say, I think
we all ought to say a prayer for them. It’s a tough life when people do
certain things to you.”
As Paterno began walking back into his home with the crowd chanting
“Let Joe Stay,” he turned around to instead lead the crowd in “We are
Penn State” cheers, which unnamed members of the Penn State Board of Trustees viewed as insensitive. In part because of the scandal, Paterno announced the following day that he would retire at the end of the season, stating:
Later that evening, however, the Board of Trustees decided to turn
down Paterno’s offer to resign, instead voting to relieve him of
coaching duties effective immediately.
They considered but ultimately rejected the idea of letting Paterno
finish out the season, saying that growing outrage at the situation made
it impossible for him to be effective.
Unable to reach Paterno personally due to the crowd around his house
and not wanting Paterno to find out through the media, the board
notified him of their decision over the phone. Tom Bradley,
Sandusky’s successor as defensive coordinator, was named interim head
coach for the remainder of the 2011 season. At the same meeting, school
president Graham Spanier resigned rather than face being fired as well.
Paterno’s dismissal was met with violence from students and alumni.
That night, several thousand Penn State students chanting Paterno’s name
rioted in the streets, hurling rocks, tearing down street signs and
overturning a news van.
Paterno supporters and family members continued to harshly criticize
the Board’s actions in the months following his death, prompting the
Board to release an additional statement explaining their decision. The
board said that Paterno had demonstrated a “failure of leadership” by
only fulfilling his legal obligation to inform Curley about the 2001
incident and not going to the police himself.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh
and his firm, including a team of former federal prosecutors and FBI
agents, were hired by the Penn State Board of Trustees to conduct an
independent investigation into the scandal.
After interviewing over 400 people and reviewing over 3.5 million
documents, the independent investigation team reported that Paterno,
Spanier, Curley and Schultz had concealed Sandusky’s actions in order to
protect publicity surrounding Penn State’s celebrated football program.
Freeh’s firm’s investigation found that by their actions, the four men
“failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for
over a decade.” The report concluded that Paterno, along with Schultz,
Spanier and Curley “concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of
Trustees, the University community and authorities.”
Email uncovered by the independent investigators indicate that
Paterno may have followed an investigation by state officials into a
previous incident between Sandusky and a different child in 1998,
despite Paterno’s grand jury testimony that he was unaware of any
possible child abuse by Sandusky prior to 2001.
When Paterno was asked, other than the incident that Mike McQueary
reported to him, whether he knew of any other inappropriate sexual
conduct by Sandusky with young boys, Paterno testified: “I do not know
of anything else that Jerry would be involved in of that nature, no. I
do not know of it. You did mention — I think you said something about a
rumor. It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about
somebody. I don’t know. I don’t remember, and I could not honestly say I
heard a rumor.”
A May 1998 email exchange between Tim Curley, the athletic director and
Gary Shultz, a campus administrator, references Paterno’s knowledge at
the time of an ongoing investigation surrounding accusations that
Sandusky had molested a young boy.
Freeh’s team also discovered a 2001 email from Curley: after a meeting
in which Curley, Schultz and Spanier had decided to have Curley report
McQueary’s information to the state Department of Public Welfare, Curley
wrote in a subsequent email that, having discussed the plan with “Joe”,
he had now changed his mind about this plan of action. Since, the Freeh
investigation reported, this was “the only known, intervening factor”
with the apparent result that no report was made to the state Department
of Public Welfare in 2001, this was widely inferred by the press to
mean that Paterno had persuaded Curley (and Schultz and Spanier) not to
report the incident to authorities outside the university.
The report also revealed that several staff members and football
coaches had known Sandusky was showering with young boys in the locker
room showers for some time prior to 1998, but none of the individuals
notified their superiors of this behavior.
In addition, the report said that even after Sandusky’s retirement in
1999 Paterno, Schultz, Spanier and Curley “empowered Sandusky to
attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing
him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the
University’s facilities and affiliation with the University’s prominent
Following the release of the Freeh report, Nike, Inc. removed Paterno’s name from the Joe Paterno Child Development Center, a child care facility at the company’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Brown University,
Paterno’s alma mater, announced that it would remove Paterno’s name
from its annual award honoring outstanding male freshman athletes and
stated his status in the Brown Athletic Hall of Fame would be placed
On July 14, 2012 the New York Times reported that in January 2011,
Paterno opened “surprise” negotiations to prematurely end his contract
with an additional $3 million early retirement payout, prior to public
knowledge of the scandal. Although his contract was not up for
negotiation until the end of 2011, Paterno initiated negotiations with
his superiors to amend his contract in January 2011, the same month he
was notified of the police investigation. By August 2011, Paterno and
his attorneys had reached a deal with the PSU Board for a total package
worth $5.5 million including: a $3 million cash payout, forgiveness of a
$350,000 interest-free loan issued by the university, the use of a
private box at Beaver Stadium and a private jet for 25 years, if he
agreed the 2011 season would be his last. Ultimately, the board rejected
Paterno’s offer to resign at the end of the 2011 season, but faced with
hate mail and a threat of a defamation lawsuit by Paterno’s family, it
agreed to give Paterno and his family the $5.5 million package, which
included additional perks for the family, including the use of the
athletic department’s hydrotherapy facilities by his widow. A lawyer for
the family claimed that the retirement package was proposed by Penn
After the Freeh report’s release, national and local organizations called for the removal of the Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium. A small plane towed a banner over campus, reading Take the Statue Down or We Will. After some days of mixed messages, the school removed the statue on Sunday, July 22, in front of a crowd of student onlookers. The statue was reportedly put in storage.
President Erickson said the statue had become “a source of division and
an obstacle to healing” but made a distinction between it and the Paterno Library, also on campus.
The most serious blow to Paterno’s legacy was delivered by the NCAA,
whose punishment was unprecedented in collegiate athletic history. Following the release of the Freeh report, on July 23, 2012, the NCAA
announced the most severe sanctions ever levied in the history of the
NCAA. The NCAA severely sanctioned the Penn State football program,
assessing $60 million in fines, banning bowl games and scholarships, and
vacating all of Paterno’s wins dating back to 1998 in punishment of the
Penn State football programs problems with integrity. The NCAA reported
that “Penn State’s leadership failed to value and uphold institutional
integrity, breaching both the NCAA Constitution and Division I rules”,
and that the NCAA “intended to remediate the ‘sports is king’ culture
that led to failures in leadership.”
The official NCAA statement on the rules violations and abuses of
integrity “addresses the integration of the athletics department into
the greater university community” and “the university will be required
to enter into an ‘Athletics Integrity Agreement’ (AIA) with the NCAA and
the Big Ten Conference, which obligates the University to adopt all of
the recommendations in Section 5.0 of the Freeh Report as described in
the above paragraph and, at a minimum, the following additional actions:
Penn State University President Rodney Erickson agreed to accept the
findings of the Freeh Report for the purpose of signing the consent
decree with the NCAA imposing sanctions on the University.
The Board of Trustees has never officially agreed to the findings of
the Freeh Report and the decisions by the NCAA. A few members have even
spoken out against them including Trustee Lubrano and Trustee Joel
Meyers. The findings and decisions have been criticized and some claim
that the boards’ actions have been misinterpreted. Trustee Ken Frazier reiterated on March 15, 2013, that the board has “never voted to accept the Freeh report.” 
On September 13 2012, a group of alumni and supporters called Penn
Staters for Responsible Stewardship released a review of the Freeh
Report that was critical of the Freeh Group’s investigation and
Paterno’s family subsequently released another report in February 2013,
disputing Freeh’s investigative methods and the portrayal of Joe
Paterno in his findings. In response, Freeh called the Paterno family’s
report “self-serving” and said that it did not change the facts and
findings of his initial investigation.
Bob Costas, a journalist and NBC sportscaster, noted that after
reading the Freeh Report in its entirety, that “What Freeh did was not
only gather facts but he reached a conclusion which is at least
debatable from those facts and then he assigned a motivation, not only
to Curley and Schultz and Spanier, but he specifically assigned a very
dark motivation to Joe Paterno, which seems like it might be quite a
leap. . . . A reasonable person will conclude that there is some doubt
here and that the other side of the story deserves to be heard.”   
Views on college football issues
Paterno was a long-time advocate for some type of college football
playoff system. The question was posed to him frequently over the years,
as only one of his five undefeated teams was voted national champion.
Paterno believed that scholarship college athletes should receive a
modest stipend, so that they have some spending money. As justification,
Paterno pointed out that many scholarship athletes came from poor
families and that other students had time to hold down a part-time job,
whereas busy practice and conditioning schedules prevented college
athletes from working during the school year.
Paterno preferred to not play true freshmen.
Later in his career, Paterno played true freshmen so as not to be at a
competitive disadvantage. Some Penn State recruits, like recruits at
many other schools, now graduate from high school a semester early so
that they can enroll in college during the spring semester and
participate in spring practice. Several team members from the recruiting
class of 2005, including Justin King, Anthony Scirrotto, and Derrick Williams, received considerable playing time as true freshmen during the 2005–2006 season.
In 2010, Paterno and former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka
suggested that concussions and other injuries in the NFL and college
football might be reduced if face masks were done away with.
Penn State’s football players were twice recognized for outstanding
academic performance by the New America Foundation’s Academic Bowl
Championship Series while under the leadership of Paterno.
The team was ranked number one out of the top 25 ranked BCS teams in
2009 and 2011. The criteria in the rankings include the graduation rate
of the team as compared to the rest of university, the difference
between the graduation rate of African-American players and the rest of
the squad as well as the same statistics for the rest of the students at
Penn State, and the graduation rate differences between the African
American players and students.
Officiating and instant replay
In 2002, 76 year-old Paterno chased down referee Dick Honig in a dead sprint following a 42–35 overtime home loss to Iowa. Paterno saw Tony Johnson
catch a pass for a first down with both feet in bounds on the stadium’s
video replay board, but the play was ruled an incompletion. This being
after Penn State had rallied from a 35–13 deficit with 9 minutes left in
the game to tie the score at 35, and were driving on their first
possession in overtime (a touchdown would have tied the game at 42).
Penn State failed on fourth down and Iowa held on for the win.
Just weeks later, in the final minute of the Michigan game, the same
wide receiver, Johnson, made a catch which would have given Penn State a
first down and put them in range for a game winning field goal.
Although Johnson was ruled out of bounds, replays clearly showed that
Johnson had both feet in bounds and the catch should have been ruled
In 2004, the Big Ten Conference became the first college football conference to adopt a form of instant replay. The previous two incidents, along with Paterno’s public objections, and the Big Ten’s Clockgate controversy, are often cited as catalysts for its adoption. Within the next year, almost all of the Division I-A conferences adopted a form of instant replay based on the Big Ten model.
Outside of football
Philanthropy and education
After the announcement of his hiring in 1966, Paterno set out to
conduct what he called a “Grand Experiment” in melding athletics and
academics in the collegiate environment, an idea that he had learned
during his years at Brown. As a result, Penn State’s players have consistently demonstrated above-average academic success compared to Division I-A schools nationwide. According to the NCAA‘s 2008 Graduation Rates Report, Penn State’s four-year Graduation Success Rate of 78% easily exceeds the 67% Division I average, second to only Northwestern among Big Ten institutions.
In 2011, Penn State football players had an 80% graduation rate and
showed no achievement gap between its black and white players, which is
extremely rare for Division I football teams. The New American Foundation ranked Penn State No. 1 in its 2011 Academic Bowl Championship Series.
Paterno was also renowned for his charitable contributions to
academics at Penn State. He and his wife Sue have contributed over $4
million towards various departments and colleges, including support for
the Penn State All-Sports Museum, which opened in 2002, and the
Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, which opened in 2003. After helping raise over $13.5 million in funds for the 1997 expansion of Pattee Library, the University named the expansion Paterno Library in their honor.
In 2007, former player Franco Harris
and his company R Super Foods honored Paterno for his contributions to
Penn State by featuring his story and picture on boxes of Super Donuts
and Super Buns in Central PA. A portion of the sales will be donated to
an endowment fund for the university library that bears his name.
Paterno also attended the annual Penn State Dance Marathon,
a popular weekend-long charity event and the largest student-run
philanthropy in the world (it raised over $10 million in 2012), every
year to raise money for kids with cancer.
Paterno was a political conservative and a personal friend of President George H. W. Bush, endorsing him as a candidate in a speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention. Paterno was also a close friend of President Gerald R. Ford, and introduced President George W. Bush at a campaign rally before the 2004 presidential election. Before the 1974 Pennsylvania gubernatorial election, a group of Pennsylvania Republican Party leaders briefly considered Paterno for Andrew Lewis‘ ticket as the candidate for lieutenant governor.
In 2004, his son Scott Paterno, an attorney, won the Republican primary for Pennsylvania’s 17th congressional district but lost in the November general election to Democratic incumbent Tim Holden.
“I brought my kids up to think for themselves since day one,” Joe
Paterno said in 2008. “I got a son who’s a Republican, who ran for
Congress, Scott. I’m a Republican. I’ve got a son, Jay, who’s for Obama. I’ve got a daughter, who I’m pretty sure she’s going to be for Hillary [Clinton]. So God bless America.”
While serving as an assistant coach, Paterno met freshman Suzanne Pohland, an English literature honors student, at the campus library. Paterno and Pohland, a Latrobe native 13 years his junior, married in 1962, the year she graduated. They had five children: Diana, Joseph Jr. “Jay”,
Mary Kay, David, and Scott. All of their children are Penn State
graduates, and Jay Paterno was the quarterbacks coach at Penn State
until his departure following the hiring of new head coach Bill O’Brien on January 7, 2012. The Paternos have seventeen grandchildren.
Paterno and his wife co-authored the children’s book We Are Penn State!, which takes place during a typical Penn State homecoming weekend.
Failing health and death
In November 2006, Paterno was involved in a sideline collision during a game against Wisconsin. He was unable to avoid the play and was struck in the knee by Badgers linebacker DeAndre Levy‘s helmet. Paterno, then 79 years old, suffered a fractured shin bone and damage to knee ligaments. He coached the 2007 Outback Bowl from the press box before making a full recovery.
In November 2008, Paterno had successful hip replacement surgery after spraining his leg while trying to demonstrate onside kicks during a practice session. While recovering, he coached the remainder of the season and the 2009 Rose Bowl from the press box. After sustaining these injuries, he made use of a motorized golf cart to move around the field during practices.
Paterno was injured again in August 2011, after colliding with a
player during practice. He sustained hairline fractures to his hip and
shoulder. No surgery was required, but Paterno began the 2011 regular
season schedule in a wheelchair.
In November 2011, Scott Paterno reported that his father had a treatable form of lung cancer.
On January 13, 2012, Paterno was hospitalized in State College for
complications relating to his cancer treatment, and he remained there
until his death nine days later on January 22, 2012. His death resulted in tributes from prominent leaders in the U.S., including former President George H. W. Bush,
who called Paterno “an outstanding American who was respected not only
on the field of play but in life generally—and he was, without a doubt, a
true icon in the world of sports.” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett
said of Paterno, “His legacy as the winningest coach in major college
football and his generosity to Penn State as an institution and to his
players, stand as monuments to his life… His place in our state’s
history is secure.” On January 23, Corbett ordered all state flags to be lowered to half mast in Paterno’s honor.
Paterno’s funeral was held in State College on January 25, 2012. About 750 mourners attended the private ceremony, after which thousands of mourners lined the route of the funeral procession. Paterno was buried in Spring Creek Presbyterian Cemetery just outside of the town. Approximately 12,000 people attended a public memorial service that was held at the Bryce Jordan Center on January 26, 2012.
Head coaching record
Paterno has an official career record of 298 wins, 136 losses, and 3 ties.
At the time of his death, Paterno had accumulated 409 total collegiate
wins, but on July 23, 2012, NCAA rulings officially vacated 111 of
Paterno’s wins based on the findings of the Freeh report regarding his
involvement in the Penn State sex abuse scandal. All wins dating back to 1998 were vacated, the year Paterno was first informed of Sandusky’s suspected child abuse. Based on the criteria used by the NCAA, Paterno no longer holds the record for most victories by an NCAA Division I football coach. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden now holds the NCAA major college record for wins at 377, while for NCAA Division I schools, Grambling State University coach Eddie Robinson‘s 408 victories stands as the official record. In his 46 seasons as a head coach, Paterno had 27 winning seasons.
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