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July 25 2021

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Obituary: Ex–Penn State coach Joe Paterno dies, aged 85
January 23rd, 2012          Richard L Gale

Joe Paterno
Joe Paterno
Football coaching legend Joe Paterno has died at the age of 85, following complications arising from treatment for lung cancer. He died on Sunday January 22 at a State College hospital, though some media outlets had prematurely reported his death the previous night.

Coach Paterno's football legacy has no equal. He was Penn State's head football coach from 1966 to 2011, the longest tenure of any Division 1/FBS coach. In his final game in charge of the Nittany Lions he attained 409 wins, breaking Eddie Robinson's Division 1 record. Coach Paterno won two national championships, and in 46 years, logged five undefeated seasons and 33 seasons in which the Nittany Lions finished as a ranked team, 21 of those in the top 10.

Joseph Vincent Paterno was born on December 21, 1926, in Brooklyn — he never lost the accent. After a short spell in the Army, Paterno attended Brown University, where he played cornerback and still shares the record for career interceptions. After graduating in 1950 he immediately took an assistant coaching position at Penn State, where former Brown head coach Rip Engle had been appointed, and succeeded him in the role.

However, Paterno's influence extended far beyond the football field, and he became an icon of Penn State University, preaching a commitment to education and good conduct. Joe and his wife Sue contributed millions to college departments, including the Penn State All–Sports Museum, a spiritual center, and helped raise over $13m for the University's Pattee Library.

Amongst many tributes following his death, former President George H. W. Bush said Paterno was 'respected not only on the field of play but in life generally'.


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