Penn State loses its Joe Pa

Ryan Loy of the Penn State University Daily Collegian and Tom Loftus contributed to this report.

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Suddenly, he was gone.

Joe “Joe Pa” Paterno, the winningest coach in NCAA Division I football history who directed Penn State University’s Nittany Lions for 45 years until losing his job in a scandal last fall, passed away early Sunday morning, according to his family. He was 85.

The longtime coach had been diagnosed with what his family had called a treatable form of lung cancer shortly after being fired from Penn State.

Paterno coached Penn State from 1966 until being fired by the university’s board of trustees on Nov. 8, 2011, following allegations that he failed to respond appropriately to a scandal involving former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was arrested on Nov. 5, 2011 on 40 counts of child sex abuse, relating to the sexual abuse of eight boys over a 15-year span.

Although Paterno was not charged with any crime, questions were raised as to whether he could have done more to follow up on information that he had been provided about the alleged crimes.

According to the grand jury presentment, Paterno informed his superiors of reports provided to him by then-graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary in 2002 regarding an alleged sexual encounter between Sandusky and a young boy in a Lasch Building locker room shower.

Paterno was hospitalized in December after breaking his pelvis in a fall at his home, and again in January for what his son called minor complications from his cancer treatments.

“He died as he lived,” his family said in a statement. “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 leaves behind his wife, Sue, and five children: Diana, Jay, Mary Kay, David, and Scott. He also had 17 grandchildren.

It was first revealed that Paterno had lung cancer on Nov. 18, when his son, Scott, released a statement on his father’s health. Paterno was admitted to Mount Nittany Medical Center on Jan. 13 after having complications with his treatment for lung cancer.

In a statement provided to the Associated Press, family spokesman Dan McGinn said that Paterno experienced further health complications on Saturday.

In his 45-plus years as Penn State head coach, Paterno amassed 409 wins, with his final victory coming against Illinois on Oct. 29, 2011. The victory allowed Paterno to pass Eddie Robinson for the most coaching wins in Division I history.

Paterno coached Penn State to five undefeated seasons, two national championships and a record 24 bowl victories.



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