STATE COLLEGE, PA - Joe Paterno, longtime Penn State football coach, has died. He was 85.
His family released a statement early Sunday morning to announce his death: "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. As the last 61 years have shown, Joe made an incredible impact. That impact has been felt and appreciated by our family in the form of thousands of letters and well wishes along with countless acts of kindness from people whose lives he touched. It is evident also in the thousands of successful student athletes who have gone on to multiply that impact as they spread out across the country."
Paterno had been hospitalized since January 13th for what his family called minor complications from his cancer treatments.
During his 46 years as head coach at Penn State, "JoePa" won 409 games and took the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games and two national championships.
Back on November 18th, Scott Paterno said his father was being treated for lung cancer. The cancer was diagnosed during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness. A few weeks later, Paterno also broke his pelvis.
In all, Paterno worked and coached at Penn State for 61 years, 46 of those as the head football coach.
After reports surfaced in November that Jerry Sandusky had molested a young boy in the Penn State locker room back in 2002 and that Paterno had done little in the wake of the news, the Nittany Lions football program began to unravel. The scandal ultimately cost Paterno his job.
Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator expected to succeed Paterno before retiring in 1999, was charged with sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years. Two university officials stepped down after they were charged with perjury following a grand jury investigation.
On the morning of November 9th, 2011, Paterno said he would retire following the season. He also said he was "absolutely devastated" by the abuse case. "This is a tragedy," the coach said. "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
But in an emergency meeting that night, university trustees fired Paterno. Graham Spanier, one of the longest-serving university presidents in the nation, also was dismissed.
Tom Bradley, one of Paterno's assistants, took over the football program as the interim head coach.
Paterno played quarterback and cornerback for Brown University, graduating in 1950 with plans to go to law school.
But when he was 23, a former coach at Brown was moving to Penn State to become the head coach and persuaded Paterno to come with him as an assistant. "I had no intention to coach when I got out of Brown," Paterno said in 2007 at Beaver Stadium in an interview before being inducted into the Hall of Fame. "Come to this hick town? From Brooklyn?"
"The fact that we've won a lot of games is that the good Lord kept me healthy, not because I'm better than anybody else," Paterno said two days before he won his 409th game and passed Eddie Robinson of Grambling State for the most in Division I. "It's because I've been around a lot longer than anybody else."
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