STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Jan. 22 (UPI) — Former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, the winningest major college coach in history who was fired in a child sex scandal, died Sunday. He was 85.
Paterno’s family released a statement in State College, Pa., Sunday morning announcing his death:
“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,” the statement said.
Paterno, affectionately known as “JoePa” by legions of players and football fans, led the Nittany Lions to five undefeated seasons and two national championships, racking up 409 wins in a 46-year career.
He was fired Nov. 9 in the child sexual abuse scandal involving former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who is charged with molesting 10 young boys, including some assaults that allegedly occurred in the college’s athletic complex.
Paterno was hospitalized in December after breaking his pelvis in a fall in his home and was hospitalized again in January when complications developed as he underwent treatment for lung cancer.
Paterno was an assistant coach at Penn State from 1950 to 1965 and became head coach in 1966. His teams were undefeated and untied in 1968, 1969, 1973 and 1982, when Penn State won the first national title of his tenure. The Nittany Lions finished in the top 25 in national college football rankings 35 times while graduating 85 percent of its players, Paterno’s official biography said.
“We grieve 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, his work and generosity will be remembered always,” University President Rodney Erickson said in a statement.
Paterno is survived by his wife, five children and 17 grandchildren.