Posted by Adam Jacobi
Penn State student website Onward State has reported that Penn State players were notified of longtime head coach Joe Paterno‘s passing via email, and CBSSports.com went on this report. Paterno, 85, had been receiving chemotherapy as part of his treatment for lung cancer.
However, Paterno family spokesperson Dan McGinn told a New York Times reporter that the report of Paterno’s demise is “absolutely not true,” and Jay Paterno tweeted that his father “continues to fight.” Onward State has since retracted their report.
Paterno was the head coach of Penn State for 46 seasons before being fired in November as his role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal came under greater scrutiny. Combined with the time he spent as an assistant, Paterno spent a total of 61 years on the Penn State sidelines. He left behind a legacy that, on the field of play, was unparalleled in Division I football. Paterno holds the all-time Division I record for football coaching wins with a 409-136-3 record, and he won two national championships while going undefeated in five different seasons.
[STATS: JoePa’s lifetime coaching record]
Under Paterno, Penn State was a perennial powerhouse, known for decades as “Linebacker U” for its propensity to develop All-American linebackers. Paterno coached such great linebackers as Dennis Onkotz, Jack Ham, Shane Conlan, LaVar Arrington, Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor, and Sean Lee, along with many others.
Additionally, running back John Cappelletti won the Heisman Trophy in 1973 under Paterno, and Cappelletti was one of seven Penn State players to win the Maxwell Award for most outstanding college football player. All in all, 68 players were named first-team All-American by at least one of the major news services under Paterno; 13 of those players were two-year winners.
Paterno’s longtime defensive coordinator and the architect of the defensive schemes that came to typify Penn State football was Jerry Sandusky, who’s now more well-known for the allegations of underaged sexual abuse against him made by men who were involved in Sandusky’s charity, The Second Mile, as boys. Sandusky is still awaiting trial for those allegations, and he pled not guilty to the charges in December 2011.
In an interview with the Washington Post released just a week ago, Paterno expressed remorse for not having done more to stop Sandusky’s alleged crimes, and he also said he was “just sick about” the situation. Investigators did not bring charges against Paterno, and instead mentioned that he had fulfilled his legal obligations by notifying his superiors about an alleged assault when he was first notified in 2002.
After Paterno was fired in 2011, Penn State named Tom Bradley — who, coincidentally, was Sandusky’s replacement at defensive coordinator — interim head coach. Bradley went 1-3, including a loss to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl, and was not retained as a coach when Penn State hired Bill O’Brien in January.
Paterno was well known for encouraging his players to excel in the classroom and earn their undergraduate degrees at Penn State, and his name will live on at Penn State. Paterno and his wife Sue were major financial supporters of Penn State University, as they donated millions of dollars for the Paterno Library on campus, and Paterno helped establish the Paterno Liberal Arts Undergraduate Fellows Program.