Joe Paterno, 85, dies Sunday morning

Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who was battling lung cancer, died Sunday morning. He was 85. Mount Nittany Medical Center said the cause of death was a spreading lung cancer (read the AP story). The legendary Penn State coach and the all-time winningest college football coach was diagnosed with the cancer in November, days after getting ousted as head coach in the aftermath of the child sex abuse charges against former assistant Jerry Sandusky.

Right now, read’s Tom Dienhart column, leave your comments on our Facebook page or on this special condolences post, look at some photos from memorials, and watch a rich collection of archive BTN video coverage of Paterno from his coaching days at the bottom of this post.

His family released a statement Sunday morning to announce his death.

“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.” Read the full release.

Head coach of the Nittany Lions since 1966, Joe and his wife Sue Paterno have five children, all of whom are Penn State graduates, and 17 grandchildren.

Paterno was dismissed by the university last fall, and recently the school announced the hiring of his replacement, Bill O’Brien. The school’s board of trustees recently explained they decided to oust Joe Paterno in part because the football coach didn’t meet a moral obligation to do more to alert authorities about a child sex abuse allegation against a retired assistant coach.

In a statement released Sunday, Penn State President Rodney Erickson says the university is grieving the death of legendary former football coach Joe Paterno and plans to honor him for his contributions to the school.

Paterno had given an exclusive interview to the Washington Post recently. Post reporter Sally Jenkins painted a portrait of a frail Paterno, but  the 85-year-old Paterno, the winningest coach in Division I football, refused to bash the school or say a bad word about retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, the man at the center of the turmoil who is accused of sexually abusing children. Read the full Washington Post story here.

More links: USAToday has a rich timeline of Joe Paterno’s career here. There are more interesting photos over at The Daily Beast. Here’s a story from too, as well as a statement from current Penn State football coach Bill O’Brien. The New York Times has also posted a detail obituary, and the last line is a quote from Paterno himself: “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

BTN has covered Paterno since the TV network started. In this video essay below, BTN’s Dave Revsine looks back at the legacy.

We remember Joe Paterno:

This past season BTN looked back at the year that saw Paterno capture his 324th coaching victory, surpassing Bear Bryant for all-time wins in major college football. Watch the clip below.

As he did each season, Paterno appeared at the Penn State pep rally on the eve of the football team’s opening game against Indiana State.

Look back at Paterno’s record-breaking win this past season. For more on Paterno, go to his profile page at

Wire services contributed to this report.


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (15 Comments)
Aaron S on 1/22/2012 @ 12:57pm EDT Said:

The Big Ten should place Paterno’s name on it’s football championship trophy. If Coach Paterno is not remembered as a ‘good’ person, I’m not sure there is anyone who is worthy of that classification.

aroznowski on 1/22/2012 @ 1:10pm EDT Said:

Aaron S is 100% correct! RIP Joe Pa!

JaxJM on 1/22/2012 @ 3:14pm EDT Said:

It is interesting that the last two months of Joe Paterno’s amazing life were filled with people who did not know him passing judgment on him – yet, when given the chance in the Washington Post interview less than a month before he died, he refused to pass judgment on people he did know. That’s another great example of honor – like the many he set over his illustrious career at Penn State. We will miss you, JoePa.

Pah on 1/22/2012 @ 5:22pm EDT Said:

How hypocritical can you get, to do an “in Memory” broadcast of JoePa, but pulled his Big Ten Icon broadcast. He was the same person all of the time. Oh what people do for ratings!

LmB on 1/22/2012 @ 7:07pm EDT Said:

Let’s face it, the only reason you are doing this is for ratings. There is no need to have the link to Sandusky’s reaction to Joe’s death in the first paragraph. Shame on you. Put Joe’s name back on the trophy. My prayers go out to the Paterno family.

Alexander on 1/22/2012 @ 7:12pm EDT Said:

is this segment only going to be 30 minutes, an hour, etc? I would like to DVR this, but don’t know how long to record

    Brent Yarina, on 1/22/2012 @ 7:15pm EDT Said:

    The show is an hour.

BUFFALO LION on 1/22/2012 @ 7:52pm EDT Said:

Agree with Aaron. Joe’s name should go back on the trophy. He was a great man who did great things. He will be truly missed. Academics and family were always number 1 for Joe.

Next to Jesus Christ and my parents, Joe had the most positive impact on my life. Thank you Joe. You’ll be missed. God Bless.

Sean on 1/23/2012 @ 5:00am EDT Said:

Interesting how most of the coaches see Joe as the greatest coach ever and his legacy is his players, but the media continues to try to paint of picture of his perceived mistake. Joe died before the trial and the complete story is revealed. Joe did things the right way, including holding no animosity towards the media or the Trustees who mistreated him. A shining example in a world lacking a moral compass.

Sean on 1/23/2012 @ 10:09am EDT Said:

The world is a better place than when Joe arrived, the lives he touched have made this a better place to live. He touched the lives players, fans, family and opponents alike. He treated each person with dignity and respect and he humbly admits to his own shortcomings. His focus was outward always worried about others until the end. Our family is sadden by the loss of such a great human being and friend. We never met, but as a Penn State Alumn and fan he was a part of our family, sharing a birthday with my wife and father. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Paterno family.

Kevin on 1/24/2012 @ 10:01pm EDT Said:

Even at the end a true class act. When was the last time someone in this country took some responsibility for his actions. As far as I can tell currently he is the only one saying he wished he could have done more. Its a disgrace how the media has crucified the man and that includes folks on this BTN. All these moral high ground folks who in the end have not given back anything to society, but talk about it.

The Big Ten folded like a tent in taking Joe Paterno’s name off the championship trophey. Well we at Penn State know what Joe was all about and that is what matters. To everyone else go pick up a book on Paterno’s life to know the real man not the snipits of news on some blog put out by a so called journalist with no facts.

Blackie on 1/25/2012 @ 10:04am EDT Said:

I agree that the Big Ten should place Coach Paterno’s name on the football championship trophy. Coach Paterno showed through his leadership on and off the field along with his lifetime of caring and sharing of time and money how one person can change the path of so many in a positive way.

Jeff Wilmington, De. on 1/26/2012 @ 12:38pm EDT Said:

My first inclination would be to go after the vicious media, I have never in my years seen a mob rule mentality and rush to judgement against people before due process is taken place…..I wish I could count the numerous people who have that handbook on how to handle this situation the “right way”, and what “Joe” should have done…..You sicken me! Joe you are a good man, a decent man, with a kind giving heart, those of us who know you feel that, those of us who don’t know you, judge you wrongely. You are also a victim in this awful scenario. Penn State, Pennsylvania and our World is a much better place for having you in it, God Bless the Man! RIP JoePa!……You are greatly loved by the masses, Jeff

Dave Thomas on 1/26/2012 @ 5:05pm EDT Said:

Mr, Dienhart and the rest of the BTN,

Way to piss off 500,000 prospects and customers for your products guys. PSU has a pretty good business school, maybe you should take a class or two that will teach you how to NOT alienate your target markets.

Gene on 1/26/2012 @ 5:23pm EDT Said:

After watching the tribute to this truly great man, I only hope that The Big Ten does the right thing, and that is to put his name back on the trophy. He did more in his 46 years for higher education and collegiate athletics than all other coaches combined. Make it right! His “spirit” will live on forever!