Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has died at 85. Did the sex abuse scandal that engulfed his final days do him in?
Joe Paterno died this weekend of complications from lung cancer. He was 85 years old.
Paterno was head coach of the Penn State football team from 1966 until November 2011, when he was fired in the midst of a huge sex abuse scandal that saw the once-beloved coach’s world turned upside down.
While Paterno was not accused of abusing any children himself, he was held accountable for not acting with greater force when graduate assistant Mike McQueary told him he witnessed assistant coach Jerry Sandusky performing sex acts on a young boy in the locker room showers.
“I didn’t know exactly how to handle it,” Paterno said in an interview with The Washington Post. “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 not charged with any crime in the scandal. Jerry Sandusky has been charged with over 40 counts of sexual abuse.
Paterno’s family issued the following statement on 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.”
“He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”
“He has been many things in his life — a soldier, scholar, mentor, coach, friend and father. To my mother he was and is her soul mate, and the last several weeks have shown the strength of their love. To his children and grandchildren he is a shining example of how to live a good, decent and honest life, a standard to which we aspire.”
“When he decided to forgo a career in law and make coaching his vocation, his father Angelo had but one command: Make an impact.”
“As the last 61 years have shown, Joe made an incredible impact. That impact has been felt and appreciated by our family in the form of thousands of letters and well wishes along with countless acts of kindness from people whose lives he touched. It is evident also in the thousands of successful student athletes who have gone on to multiply that impact as they spread out across the country.”
“And so he leaves us with a peaceful mind, comforted by his ‘living legacy’ of five kids, 17 grandchildren, and hundreds of young men whose lives he changed in more ways than can begin to be counted.”
Joe Paterno is survived by his wife, five children and 17 grandchildren.