T Nation

Joe Pa Dead



Jan. 22, 2012

Joe Paterno Jr., whose glittering career as Penn State's football coach was tainted by a child sex-abuse scandal, died today. He was 85.

"It is with great sadness that we announce that Joe Paterno passed away earlier today. His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled," Paterno's family said in a statement.

Paterno coached the Nittany Lions for 46 years and in 2011 became the winningest coach in Division 1 football. But before the season was over, he was abruptly dismissed as the sex scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky suggested that top school officials had ignored signs of Sandusky's alleged predatory behavior.

Shortly after his dismissal, Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer and broke his hip.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, he appeared frail, wearing a wig and speaking in a whisper. He canceled public appearances after the interview because of his failing health, according to family members.

For Paterno's legion of fans, who referred to the coach affectionately as "JoePa," the turbulent final months of Paterno's life were a tragic end to an outstanding coaching career that was built around his motto of "success with honor."

His personal life included service in the Army, an English degree from Brown University, a marriage that lasted more than half a century, and a football team's worth of children and grandchildren.
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While at Penn State's helm, Paterno, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., led the Nittany Lions to seven undefeated seasons and two NCAA championships, had only five losing seasons, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007, and was nominated for a Presidential Medal of Freedom. The nomination was revoked, however, after the scandal broke.

Penn State Great Joe Paterno Dead at 85

Paterno was known for his "Grand Experiment" at the university, stressing academic success as well as athletic achievement for his players.

"Just winning is a silly reason to be serious about a game," Paterno wrote in his 1997 book, "Paterno: By the Book." "The purpose of college football is to serve education."

During his tenure, the reputation of Penn State grew from that of a small land-grant university to a nationally ranked research university. The football program ballooned in prestige, with the school's Beaver Stadium expanding six times during his tenure.

Paterno's football program consistently ranked among the top in the NCAA for graduation rates, as well as the top grade point averages for student athletes in Division 1 sports. The achievements helped illustrate Paterno's philosophy on collegiate sports and on life, as he said in a 1973 commencement speech to Penn State graduates, that "Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger but it won't taste good."

And despite offers from other universities and NFL football teams, including an ownership stake in the New England Patriots, Paterno remained at Penn State, where his base pay was only a fraction of that of other top football coaches in the country. His base pay in 2011 was a little less than $600,000. He and his wife, Sue, donated more than $4 million to the university, which named a library and a campus spirituality center for them.

Paterno was also involved in politics, supporting conservative candidates in Pennsylvania and befriending presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald R. Ford, who tried but failed to convince the coach to run for office.

Paterno spoke at the 1988 Republican convention in support of Bush.

Bush's son, President George W. Bush, visited Penn State's campus in 2005, noting his respect for Paterno.

"I tell you one thing about Joe Paterno, there's no more decent fellow on the face of the Earth," Bush said. "What a man, who sets high standards, he loves his family, he loves this university, he loves his country, and my mother and dad love him."


Can I get a little "philosophical"?

1) A great man is gone.

2) Call it cancer or whatever; but I always thought that when JoePa stopped coaching he would die. Football, and Penn State were his Life. Add to it the SANDUSKY scandal, and I think JoePa knew it was time to move on...

3) No...I am NOT forgetting about the kids in this terrible SANDUSKY case; but could there have been a little less "rush to judgment" when it came to a man who literally put a little known Community College on the map? Did we learn ANYTHING from the Duke Case?

I bet Coach is up there smacking some Angels into shape...

We will miss you, JoePa.



He fucking smoked cigarettes. It wasn't like anyone killed him. He did it to himself.


hey i remember U .. havent seen you in years :slight_smile: yea thats exactly what i thought when he was fired. Guy is gonna die real soon.. just like when steve jobs stepped down from apple. I read a while back I don't remember where but That a staggering percent of people die within 5 years after retirement. RIP JOEPA


He knew people were being raped, but didn't want to bring controversy to the school. So....no sympathy from me.


Well stated, Mufasa.

Unfortunately, most people did not learn anything from the Duke Lacrosse scandal and they never will.


Shit happens.


It's amazing what it takes for someone to be considered great these days. He was a football coach, maybe he was great at it, but that doesn't make him great. Football is a sport, a game, not reality. When reality reared its head, in the form of child rape, his "greatness" stuck its head in the sand. There is a firehouse about a half mile from my home and I would consider the firemen there great, in spite of their relative anonymity, before I considered an athlete or coach great.


Exactly. People keep bringing up his players graduation rate. What you don't often hear is that PSU had THE HIGHEST number of felons of any D1 school during Paterno's reign as coach. And obviously there was the whole turning a blind eye to his right hand man RAPING LITTLE BOYS, and when he finally speaks up the best excuse he can muster is "I didn't know there was such a thing as man and rape". The guy was a great football coach and nothing more. All he cared about was football and how he and the university appeared. The saddest part is now we'll never know exactly what he knew about what was going on, which was CLEARLY a helluva lot more than he let on.


He was a great philanthropist.

He donated millions of dollars.


He was also 85. Much older than the average life expectancy for people of his birth year.


It should never be this easy to judge someone......and for good reason.


All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

All I have to say on that....


I believe mass amounts of stress can cause cancer cells to develop more rapidly. being old, smoking, and all of this shit, it seemed inevitable.

He changed football in the big 10 meant a lot to college football. He will be missed.


'I didn't know there was such a thing as man and rape' (!!)
Do you believe that? The guy was a catholic.
What was front page news in 2002 in the catholic community (and in the national media in case he never went to church)?
So sad.


I felt more sympathy when Steve Jobs died.


People keep saying that, but werent those the same millions paid to him by the taxpayers of Pennsylvania?

Or was there other source? Endorsements?


It's a sad world when someone gets a free pass for enabling such despicable acts to go on due to the fact that grown men can't see past the stupidity of throwing a ball around.


I can't say that the responses on this thread are totally unexpected, or even undeserved.

With that being said; many of you better hope that the sum total of your Lives are not judged as harshly as some of you have judged JoePa.



I, for one, feel bad that he died.

Being of extraordinarily weak moral makeup myself, I like to see men who've done wrong redeem themselves.

What I hate is when someone dies 'in media res,' and never has that chance.

Rest in Peace Joe.