Fired Penn State Coach Joe Paterno Dead At 85

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Joe Paterno, the longtime Penn State coach who won more games than anyone in major college football but was fired amid a child sex abuse scandal that scarred his reputation for winning with integrity, died Sunday. He was 85.

LISTEN: Former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi who had longtime ties to Joe Paterno with WFAN’s Marc Malusis

His family released a statement Sunday morning to announce his death: “His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled.”

“He died as he lived,” the statement said. “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.”

Paterno built his program on the credo “Success with Honor,” and he found both. The man known as “JoePa” won 409 games and took the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games and two national championships. More than 250 of the players he coached went on to the NFL.

“He will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said after his former team, the Florida Gators, beat Penn State 37-24 in the 2011 Outback Bowl.

Paterno’s son Scott said on Nov. 18 that his father was being treated for lung cancer. The cancer was diagnosed during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness. A few weeks after that revelation, Paterno also broke his pelvis after a fall but did not need surgery.

Paterno had been in the hospital since Jan. 13 for observation for what his family had called minor complications from his cancer treatments. Not long before that, he conducted his only interview since losing his job, with The Washington Post. Paterno was described as frail then, speaking mostly in a whisper and wearing a wig. The second half of the two-day interview was conducted at his bedside.

“As the last 61 years have shown, Joe made an incredible impact,” said the statement from the family. “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.”

The final days of Paterno’s Penn State career were easily the toughest in his 61 years with the university and 46 seasons as head football coach.

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/01/19/penn-state-board-admits-joe-paterno-fired-for-inaction/

It was because Paterno was a such a sainted figure — more memorable than any of his players and one of the best-known coaches in all of sports — that his downfall was so startling. During one breathtaking week in early November, Paterno was engulfed by a scandal and forced from his job, because he failed to go to the police in 2002 when told a young boy was molested inside the football complex.

“I didn’t know which way to go … and rather than get in there and make a mistake,” he said in the Post interview.

Jerry 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 of Sandusky. But attention quickly focused on an alleged rape that took place in a shower in the football building, witnessed by Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant at the time.

McQueary testified that he had seen Sandusky attacking the child and that he had told Paterno, who waited a day before alerting school authorities. Police were never called and the state’s top cop later said Paterno failed to execute his moral responsibility by not contacting police.

“You know, (McQueary) didn’t want to get specific,” Paterno said in the Post interview. “And to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”

On the morning of Nov. 9, Paterno said he would retire following the 2011 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 the university trustees faced a crisis, and in an emergency meeting that night, they fired Paterno, effective immediately. Graham Spanier, one of the longest-serving university presidents in the nation, also was dismissed.

According to Lanny Davis, an attorney retained by the trustees as an adviser, board vice chairman John Surma regretted having to tell Paterno the decision over the phone.

The university handed the football team to one of Paterno’s assistants, Tom Bradley, who said Paterno “will go down in history as one of the greatest men, who maybe most of you know as a great football coach.”

Thick, smoky-lens glasses, rolled up khakis, jet-black sneakers, blue windbreaker — Paterno was easy to spot on the sidelines. His teams were just as easy to spot on the field; their white helmets and classic blue and white uniforms had the same old-school look as the coach.

Paterno believed success was not measured entirely on the field. From his idealistic early days, he had implemented what he called a “grand experiment” — to graduate more players while maintaining success on the field.

He was a frequent speaker on ethics in sports, a conscience for a world often infiltrated by scandal and shady characters.

His teams consistently ranked among the best in the Big Ten for graduating players. As of 2011, it had 49 academic All-Americans, the third-highest among schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision. All but two played under Paterno.

“He teaches us about really just growing up and being a man,” former linebacker Paul Posluszny, now with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, once said. “Besides the football, he’s preparing us to be good men in life.”

Paterno certainly had detractors, as well. One former Penn State professor called his high-minded words on academics a farce. He was criticized for making broad critiques about the wrongs in college football without providing specifics. A former administrator said his players often got special treatment compared to non-athletes. His coaching style often was considered too conservative. Some thought he held on to his job too long. There was a push to move him out in 2004 but it failed.

But the critics were in the minority, and his program was never cited for major NCAA violations. However, the child sexual abuse scandal prompted separate investigations by the U.S. Department of Education and the NCAA into the school’s handling.

Paterno played quarterback and cornerback for Brown University and set a defensive record with 14 career interceptions, a distinction he boasted about to his teams all the way into his 80s. He graduated in 1950 with plans to go to law school. He said his father hoped he would someday be president.

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?”

In 1963, he was offered a job by the late Al Davis — $18,000, triple his salary at Penn State, plus a car to become general manager and coach of the AFL’s Oakland Raiders. He said no. Rip Engle retired as Penn State head coach three years later, and Paterno took over.

At the time, the Lions were considered “Eastern football” — inferior — and Paterno courted newspaper coverage to raise the team’s profile. In 1967, PSU began a 30-0-1 streak.

But Penn State couldn’t get to the top of the polls. The Lions finished second in 1968 and 1969 despite perfect records. They went 12-0 in 1973 and finished fifth. Texas edged them in 1969 after President Richard Nixon, impressed with the Longhorns’ bowl performance, declared them No. 1.

“I’d like to know,” Paterno said later, “how could the president know so little about Watergate in 1973, and so much about college football in 1969?”

A national title finally came in 1982, in a 27-23 win over Georgia at the Sugar Bowl. Penn State won another in 1986 after the Lions picked off Vinny Testaverde five times and beat Miami 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl.

They have made several title runs since then, including a 2005 run to the Orange Bowl and an 11-1 campaign in 2008 that earned them a berth in the Rose Bowl, where they lost 37-23 to Southern California.

In his later years, physical ailments wore the old coach down. Paterno was run over on the sideline during a game at Wisconsin in November 2006 and underwent knee surgery. He hurt his hip in 2008 demonstrating an onside kick.

An intestinal illness and a bad reaction to antibiotics prescribed for dental work slowed him for most of the 2010 season. Paterno began scaling back his speaking engagements that year, ending his summer caravan of speeches to alumni across the state.

Then a receiver bowled over Paterno at practice in August, sending him to the hospital with shoulder and pelvis injuries and consigning him to coach much of the season from the press box.

“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.”

Paterno could be conservative on the field, especially in big games, relying on the tried-and-true formula of defense, the running game and field position.

“They’ve been playing great defense for 45 years,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said in November.

Paterno and his wife, Sue, raised five children in State College. Anybody could telephone him at his modest ranch home — the same one he appeared in front of on the night he was fired — by looking up “Paterno, Joseph V.” in the phone book.

He walked to home games and was greeted and wished good luck by fans on the street. Former players paraded through his living room for the chance to say hello. But for the most part, he stayed out of the spotlight.

Paterno did have a knack for joke. He referred to Twitter, the social media, as “Twittle-do, Twittle-dee.”

He also could be abrasive and stubborn, and had his share of run-ins with his bosses or administrators. And as his legend grew, so did the attention to his on-field decisions, and the questions about when he would retire.

Calls for his retirement reached a crescendo in 2004. The next year, Penn State went 11-1 and won the Big Ten. In the Orange Bowl, PSU beat Florida State, whose coach, Bobby Bowden, left the Seminoles after the 2009 season after 34 years and 389 wins.

Like many others, he was outlasted by “JoePa.”

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Leave your memories of Paterno below.

Comments

One Comment

  1. BklynHeb says:

    Is raping a young boy OK as long as you win football games?Clearly Papa Joe dropped the ball on this call.The rapists worked for him for over a decade so he had his reason for covering for him. History will not be kind to Papa Joe and he will be sent to hell for his actions

  2. Stan says:

    could have left a great legacy, instead he will be known as the enabler of jerry sandusky. at penn state football is more important than the molestation of young boys.

  3. ken says:

    Joe Paterno and his family donated nearly 5 million dollars to Penn State. Paterno was also one of the lowest compensated coaches in D1 football. He had one of the highest athlete graduation rates in college sports and always placed education before sports. To fire him, without giving him the opportunity to retire, was heartless, insensitive and cruel. This great man was not alleged to have done anything criminal or wrong. He cooperated fully with the investigation and with authorities. The trustees who so callously rushed to fire him should hope that karma doesn’t exist.
    I will no longer continue to contribute to PSU until the Board of Trustees is replaced and I hope other alum will follow.

    1. Frank says:

      Donated nearly 5 mil to Penn State? That’s like a NYC worker giving money to Bloomberg.

  4. bill says:

    young boy got raped, this guy wanted to sweep it under the carpet, in order to protect a legacy, pathetic rich people state of mind… F Penn state/

    1. red says:

      Bill, I guess you’re just an angry and bitter person. Paterno reported the incident to the school’s administration and to his superiors– Excatly as the school required! He was not accused of any wrongdoing. There are so many of you posters filled with bitterness who would rather anonymously post negative and false comments than learn the facts and say something constructive. I feel sorry for you..

      1. SD says:

        If I knew this was happening at my school, reported it and the school did nothing, I would have gone to the police myself. He perpetuated the problem with his silence!

  5. Frank says:

    College sports gets WAY too much publicity I would seriously rather watch paint dry or tree limbs swaying in the wind than a bunch of overhyped toilet bowl games. At least there is some REAL football on today.

    Not trying to troll or mock this man’s death. Just saying that if my above point were reality then we wouldn’t be reading about it.

    And another thing: these “famed” coaches make millions and millions of dollars. Partly because of this, tuItions for many colleges cost more annually than most people pay to rent an apartment. And that is just PLAIN WRONG!!!

    1. Karen says:

      Coach Paterno & his wife donated a library to the university, and many other quiet acts over their long tenure at Penn State. They lived in the same house for many years. Joe-pa never forgot his Brooklyn roots.

  6. Karen from Brooklyn says:

    Rest in peace Joe-pa. There is far more to be praised about you than negative. In your usual sense of class and manners, you forgave those who sought to blame you for the misdeeds of others. You brought much to the lessons of the prioritiy of student athlete, and a family friend who was the AD of a high school in ny took from your example. We are the poorer for your loss. No more pain and suffering. Thanks Joe-pa.

  7. America;s Mayor , not says:

    Bad year for Italians.
    Go Giants.

    1. lew says:

      Fool. Your mama must be proud that she raised someone not intelligent enough to contribute more than an ignorant comment.

  8. DAN says:

    THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES FOR FIRING A MAN WHO WHO CONTRIBUTED SO MUCH TO THIS UNIVERSITY. FIRING JOE PATERNO- BY TELEPHONE- AFTER 61 YEARS OF DISTINGUISHED SERVICE WAS EGREGIOUS AND COWARDLY. HE WAS NOT ACCUSED OF A CRIME, NOT ACCUSED OFANY WRONGDOING, NOT ACCUSED OF A COVERUP, NOT ACCUSED OF ANYTHING EXCEPT REPORTING TO HIS SUPERIORS WHAT HE WAS TOLD BY A COACH. AND , THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SCHOOL POLICY AND BOARD OF TRUSTEES DIRECTED HIM TO DO. JOE WAS FIRED TO CREATE A DISTRACTION IN AN ATTEMPT TO TAKE THE FOCUS FROM AN IMPOTENT BOARD OF TRUSTEES FOR NOT IMPLEMENTING SOONER A MORE COMPREHENSIVE AND SPECIFIC DIRECTIVE TO ADDRESS THIS TYPE OF ISSUE. GOD BLESS THE VICTIMS, AND GOD BLESS JOE PATERNO AND HIS FAMILY. MAY THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES ALWAYS BE REMINDED OF THEIR COWARDLY ACTS.

    1. Karen says:

      Well said Dan. Joe-pa’s capacity for forgiveness far exceeds yours and mine

Comments are closed.

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