Joe Paterno Leaves Football Legacy
Although he was the most well-known person on Penn State's campus in State College, Paterno was also seen as a picture of humility. Students at Penn State knew that Coach Paterno lived nearby in a modest ranch home he bought for $9,000, and walked from his house to each home football game. He and his wife remained listed in the public phone book, and his children went to the town's public school.
At his direction, the team wore simple uniforms, donning blue jerseys without names and simple white helmets without logos, and plain high-top black shoes. The austere style reflected that of the coach, who wore to nearly every game the same thick-framed black glasses, rolled-up pant legs and white athletic socks.
But Paterno's reputation was called into question in November 2011 when allegations of child sex-abuse surfaced against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. A grand jury presentment detailed an incident that took place in 2002 in the Penn State football complex, in which an assistant coach allegedly saw Sandusky in a shower, naked, with a young boy, in a position that seemed sexual.
The assistant, Mike McQueary, testified to a Pennsylvania grand jury that he reported what he saw to Paterno, who in turn told his superiors. No one called the police.
Paterno was accused of doing too little to ensure the safety of children on campus, although he was not legally bound to call the police.
Penn State Mourns Joe Paterno's Death
In his last interview before his death, Paterno told the Washington Post that he wished he had done more when faced with the allegations against Sandusky.
"I didn't know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was," he said. "So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn't work out that way."
Paterno was fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees during the week after the scandal broke, three games before the end of the 2011 season and six weeks before his head coaching contract expired. The board said Paterno's ability to lead had been "compromised."
In the wake of the scandal, Pennsylvania's senators withdrew their support for his nomination for a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Paterno's name was removed from the Big Ten Conference championship trophy.
During his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2007, Paterno expressed joy at a career spent coaching football.
"How good has it been? What we share in football; there's never been a greater game. We've been involved in the greatest game, the greatest experience anybody could hope for. Great teammates. Guys you could trust. Guys you loved. Guys you would go to war with tomorrow. We're so lucky. We're so lucky," he said.
Paterno is survived by his wife, Suzanne Paterno, their children, Diana, Joseph Jr. "Jay", Mary Kay, David and Scott, all of whom are Penn State graduates, and 17 grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests that donations be made to the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania or the Penn State-THON (The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon).