Joe Paterno, the former Pennsylvania State University football coach whose career was ended and reputation tarnished over an explosive sex abuse scandal, died Sunday morning at the age of 85 from complications resulting from lung cancer. Paterno's health deteriorated rapidly after the Penn State Board of Trustees fired him, along with President Graham B. Spanier, for not doing more when informed that his former assistant of 16 years may have been sexually abusing young boys.
The winningest coach in Division I history, Paterno was widely respected and known for imparting to players the importance of ethical behavior and academic success. Just last week, The Washington Post published Paterno's first interview since his dismissal, in which he said he didn't follow up on the allegations against Jerry Sandusky -- the coach relayed what he'd heard to his superiors, but not police -- because he "didn't know exactly how to handle it." In one of the few comments Paterno made as the scandal was unfolding, he said, "I wish I had done more."
The university, which has been criticized by some alumni for its treatment of Paterno, issued a statement Sunday that made no mention of the scandal. The statement said: "We grieve for the loss of Joe Paterno, a great man who made us a greater university. His dedication to ensuring his players were successful both on the field and in life is legendary and his commitment to education is unmatched in college football. His life, work and generosity will be remembered always." The university also reiterated plans to honor Paterno.