He spent 61 years serving the university he loved, and today millions of fans are mourning the death of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.
“JoePa” spent 46 of his years at Penn State as Head Coach, guiding his teams to five undefeated seasons and two national championships in 1982 and 1986. His 409 wins is a Division I record that may never be broken. He was a modern day throwback to another era of football, often sharing with reporters stories of Vince Lombardi and other names from the sport’s great past. His black sneakers, rolled up pantlegs, white socks and trademark glasses were part of Penn State Saturdays for decades. His “Grand Experiment” focused on making sure his players were student athletes, and the graduation rates reflected that philosophy.
Paterno is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and according to the university, he donated more than $5 million to the school, including the library that bears his name along with wife Sue Paterno. He contributed more than $1 million to the Mount Nittany Medical Center, where he passed away this morning.
Paterno was fired from his longtime position on November 9th following the scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. While Paterno was never a target in the criminal probe, many questioned his failure to do more than simply report the allegations to his Athletic Director, Tim Curley. According to a grand jury presentment, Paterno was made aware of an alleged 2002 incident involving Sandusky in a football facility shower. Curley and another university administrator were charged with failure to report that case to authorities.
While Paterno had tended to his legal obligations according to state prosecutors, many said he had a higher moral responsibility to follow up on the case with police. Among them, the Penn State University Board of Trustees, who dismissed Paterno 74 days ago. Shortly thereafter, it was announced the coach was undergoing treatment for a “treatable” form of lung cancer. He was admitted to Mount Nittany Medical Center nine days ago with complications, and passed away at 9:25am Sunday morning. The previous evening, his family had gathered at his bedside for their final goodbyes, even as some media outlets were prematurely reporting Paterno’s death.
Joe Paterno was 85 years old.