This weekend was filled with rumors and breaking news that Penn State coach Joe Paterno had died. After many retractions and corrections, it has been confirmed that Mr. Paterno passed away early Sunday morning from lung cancer complications.
Joe Paterno, whose tenure as the most successful coach in major college football history ended abruptly in November amid allegations that he failed to respond forcefully enough to a sex abuse scandal involving a former assistant. The longtime Penn State head coach was diagnosed with what his family had called a treatable form of lung cancer shortly after the university’s Board of Trustees voted to fire him.
Paterno, who was affectionately known as “JoePa” by generations of his players and football fans alike, was widely admired in football circles for what he called his “Grand Experiment” — his expectation that big-time college football players could succeed on the field while upholding high academic and moral standards away from the gridiron.
In October, state authorities charged two university officials with misleading investigators and failing to report alleged sexual abuse in 2002, after a Penn State assistant told a grand jury he saw former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky performing what appeared to be anal sex on a boy in a shower at the football complex.
The assistant reported it to Paterno the next day, who said he passed the report along to then-Athletic Director Tim Curley and another university executive, Gary Schultz.
Curley and Schultz left their positions shortly after the grand jury report was revealed. The next month, the university fired Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier.
At the time, he said in a statement released by his son, Scott Paterno, that he was “distraught” over the sex abuse scandal.
In an interview with the Washington Post published January 14, Paterno said that he felt inadequate to deal with the allegations.
“I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” the Post quoted him as saying. “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.”