Paterno at a 2010 rally
December 21, 1926|
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||January 22, 2012
State College, Pennsylvania
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|1950–1965||Penn State (assistant)|
|Administrative career (AD unless noted)|
|Head coaching record|
|Accomplishments and honors|
|2 National (1982, 1986)
3 Big Ten (1994, 2005, 2009)
|Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (1986)
5× AFCA COY (1968, 1978, 1982, 1986, 2005)
3× Walter Camp COY (1972, 1994, 2005)
3× Eddie Robinson COY (1978, 1982, 1986)
2× Bobby Dodd COY (1981, 2005)
Paul "Bear" Bryant Award (1986)
3× George Munger Award (1990, 1994, 2005)
Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (2002)
The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award (2005)
Sporting News College Football COY (2005)
3× Big Ten Coach of the Year (1994, 2005, 2008)
|College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2007 (profile)
Joseph Vincent "Joe" Paterno (//; December 21, 1926 – January 22, 2012), sometimes referred to as "JoePa", was an American college football player, athletic director, and coach who was the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions from 1966 to 2011. With 409 victories, Paterno holds the most wins in FBS history. His career ended with his dismissal from the team as a result of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal.
Paterno was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended Brown University, where he played football both as the quarterback and a cornerback. Originally planning to be a lawyer, he instead signed on as an assistant football coach at Penn State in 1950, persuaded by his college coach Rip Engle who had taken over as Penn State's head coach. In 1966, Paterno was named as Engle's successor. He soon coached the team to two undefeated regular seasons in 1968 and 1969. The team won two national championships—in 1982 and 1986. Paterno coached five undefeated teams that won major bowl games and, in 2007, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach. In all, he led the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl appearances with 24 wins while turning down offers to coach National Football League (NFL) teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots.
After the child sex abuse scandal involving his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky broke in full in November 2011, Paterno announced he would retire at the end of the season. However, on November 9, the Penn State Board of Trustees rejected this offer and fired him, effective immediately. An investigation conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh concluded in July 2012 that Paterno concealed facts relating to Sandusky's sexual abuse of young boys. The investigation also uncovered information that Paterno may have persuaded university officials not to report Sandusky to authorities in 2001. An independent report composed by the law firm King & Spalding and commissioned by the Paterno family has disputed his involvement in the alleged coverup and accused Freeh of making unsupported conclusions.  On July 23, 2012, the NCAA vacated all of Penn State's wins from 1998 through 2011 as part of its punishment for the child sex abuse scandal, eliminating 111 of the games Paterno had coached and won, dropping him from first to 12th on the list of NCAA football coaches with the most wins. The NCAA reversed its decision on January 16, 2015 and restored the 111 wins to Paterno's record.
Paterno died of complications from lung cancer on January 22, 2012, only two months after his firing.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Coaching history
- 3 Child sex abuse scandal and dismissal
- 4 Views on college football issues
- 5 Outside of football
- 6 Failing health and death
- 7 Head coaching record
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Paterno was born December 21, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York, and throughout his life he spoke with a marked Brooklyn accent. He was the son of Florence de LaSalle Cafiero, a homemaker, and Angelo Lafayette Paterno, a law clerk. His family was of Italian ancestry. In 1944, Paterno graduated from the old Brooklyn Preparatory School. Six weeks later he was drafted into the Army. Paterno spent a year in the Army before being discharged in time to start the 1946 school year at Brown University where his tuition was paid by Busy Arnold.
In college Paterno was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Upsilon chapter). He played quarterback and cornerback for the Brown Bears, and shares the career record for interceptions with Greg Parker at 14. Paterno graduated as an English literature major in 1950 and had been accepted into Boston University School of Law, which he had planned to attend before deciding to coach at Penn State. Although his father asked, "For God's sake, what did you go to college for?" after hearing of his career choice, Paterno joined Rip Engle as an assistant coach at Penn State in 1950; Engle had coached five seasons, 1944–1949, at Brown. Paterno was promoted to associate coach, the top assistant, in June 1964, and when Engle announced his retirement in February 1966, Paterno was named his successor the next day.
Paterno's abbreviated 2011 season was his 62nd on the Penn State coaching staff, which gave him the record for most seasons for any football coach at a single university. The 2009 season was Paterno's 44th as head coach of the Nittany Lions, passing Amos Alonzo Stagg for the most years as head coach at a single institution in Division I.
Paterno was known for his gameday image—thick glasses, rolled-up dress slacks (by his admission, to save on cleaning bills), white socks and Brooklyn-tinged speech. Reflecting the growth in Penn State's stature during his tenure, Beaver Stadium was expanded six times during his tenure, increasing in size from 46,284 in 1966 to 106,572 in 2001.
In 1995, Paterno apologized for a tirade directed at Rutgers then-head coach Doug Graber at the end of a nationally televised game. Paterno was accused of "making light of sexual assault" in 2006 by the National Organization for Women which called for his resignation, though Penn State later categorized this incident as being "taken out of context" and never seriously considered asking for Paterno's resignation. Paterno also was involved in a road rage incident in 2007.
As Penn State football struggled from 2000 to 2004, with an overall 26–33 record in those years, Paterno became the target of criticism from some Penn State faithful. Many in the media attributed Penn State's struggles to Paterno's advancing age. He had no apparent plans to retire, and contingents of fans and alumni began calling for him to step down. Paterno rebuffed all of this and stated he would fulfill his contract which would expire in 2008.
Paterno announced in a speech in Pittsburgh on May 12, 2005, that he would consider retirement if the 2005 football team had a disappointing season. "If we don't win some games, I've got to get my rear end out of here", Paterno said in a speech at the Duquesne Club. "Simple as that". However, Penn State finished the season with a record of 11–1 and were champions of the Big Ten in 2005. They defeated Florida State 26–23 in triple overtime in the 2006 Orange Bowl.
In 2008, due to a litany of football players' off-the-field legal problems, including 46 Penn State football players having faced 163 criminal charges according to an ESPN analysis of Pennsylvania court records and reports dating to 2002, ESPN questioned Joe Paterno's and the university's control over the Penn State football program by producing and airing an ESPN's Outside the Lines feature covering the subject. Paterno was criticized for his response dismissing the allegations as a "witch hunt", and chiding reporters for asking about problems.
The Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System (SERS) revealed Paterno's salary in November 2007: $512,664. He was paid $490,638 in 2006. The figure was not inclusive of other compensation, such as money from television and apparel contracts as well as other bonuses that Paterno and other football bowl subdivision coaches earned, said Robert Gentzel, SERS communications director. The release of these amounts can only come at the university's approval, which Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said will not happen. "I'm paid well, I'm not overpaid," Paterno said during an interview with reporters Wednesday before the salary disclosure. "I got all the money I need".
Bowls and championships
Joe Paterno holds an official NCAA total of 18 bowl victories. He holds the NCAA record for total bowl appearances with 37. Before the NCAA sanctions, he had a bowl record of 24 wins, 12 losses, and 1 tie following a defeat in the 2011 Outback Bowl. Paterno was the first coach with the distinction of having won each of the four major bowls—Rose, Orange, Fiesta, and Sugar—as well as the Cotton Bowl Classic, at least once. Including the 2012 NCAA sanctions, Penn State won at least 3 bowl games in each of the 3 decades between 1970 and 1997.
Paterno led Penn State to two national championships (1982 and 1986) and five undefeated, untied seasons (1968, 1969, 1973, 1986, and 1994). Four of his unbeaten teams (1968, 1969, 1973, and 1994) won major bowl games and were not awarded a national championship.
Penn State under Paterno won the Orange Bowl (1968, 1969, 1973 and 2005*), the Cotton Bowl Classic (1972 and 1974), the Fiesta Bowl (1977, 1980, 1981, 1986, 1991, and 1996), the Liberty Bowl (1979), the Sugar Bowl (1982), the Aloha Bowl (1983), the Holiday Bowl (1989), the Citrus Bowl (1993 and 2010), the Rose Bowl (1994), the Outback Bowl (1995, 1998 and 2006) and the Alamo Bowl (1999 and 2007).
After Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference in 1993, the Nittany Lions under Paterno won the Big Ten championship three times (1994, 2005 and 2008), with the last two of those still awaiting official restoration to the record. Paterno had 29 finishes in the Top 10 national rankings.
Awards and honors
- Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year – 1986
- Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award (United States Sports Academy (USSA)) – 1989, 2001
- Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (AFCA) – 2002
- AFCA Coach of the Year – 1968, 1978, 1982, 1986, 2005
- Associated Press College Football Coach of the Year Award – 2005
- Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award – 1981, 2005
- Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year – 1978, 1982, 1986
- George Munger Award (Div. I Coach of the Year) – 1990, 1994, 2005
- Paul "Bear" Bryant Award – 1986
- Sporting News College Football Coach of the Year – 2005
- The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award – 2005
- Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award – 1972, 1994, 2005
- Dave McClain Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year – 1994, 2005, 2008
- NCAA Gerald R. Ford Award – 2011 (revoked by NCAA)
On May 16, 2006, Paterno was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame after the National Football Foundation decided to change its rules and allow any coach over the age of 75 to be eligible for the Hall of Fame instead of having to wait until retirement. However, on November 4, 2006 he was injured during a sideline collision during a game against Wisconsin. As a result of his injuries, he was unable to travel to the induction ceremonies in New York City and the National Football Foundation announced that he would instead be inducted as a part of the Hall of Fame class of 2007. Paterno was inducted on December 4, 2007, and officially enshrined in a ceremony held July 19, 2008.
In 2009, Paterno was named to Sporting News' list of the 50 greatest coaches of all time (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, college basketball, and college football). He is listed in position 13.
In 2010, the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia established the Joseph V. Paterno Award, to be awarded annually to the college football coach "who has made a positive impact on his university, his players and his community." Following the breaking of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal the following year, the award was discontinued by the club.
Also in 2010, the Big Ten Conference established the Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy as the annual trophy to be awarded to the winner of the conference football championship. However, on November 14, 2011, the trophy name was changed to the Stagg Championship Trophy in light of the Sandusky child abuse scandal.
Paterno was also nominated for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. However, in light of the Sandusky child abuse scandal, United States Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey, Jr., as well as Representative Glenn Thompson withdrew their support of Paterno receiving the honor.
Child sex abuse scandal and dismissal
On November 5, 2011, former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested on 40 counts of child sexual abuse occurring between 1994 and 2009, including allegations of incidents on the Penn State campus. A 2011 grand jury investigation reported that then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary told Paterno in 2002 (prosecutors later amended the date to 2001) that he had seen Sandusky abusing a 10-year-old boy in Penn State football's shower facilities. According to the report, Paterno notified Athletic Director Tim Curley about the incident, and later notified Gary Schultz, Vice President of Finance and Business, who also oversaw the University Police. Paterno said McQueary informed him that "he had witnessed an incident in the shower... but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report." In his Grand Jury testimony, Paterno stated that McQueary had described Sandusky "fondling" a young boy in an act he described of a "sexual nature," but stopped short of the graphic rape to which McQueary would later testify. Despite the nature of the 2001 incident that McQueary told Paterno he witnessed in the showers, Paterno did not notify state police. While the prosecutors did not accuse Paterno of any wrongdoing, he was criticized for his failure to follow up on McQueary's report. The victim in the 2001 incident was identified in July 2012. Sandusky continued to have access to the university's athletic facilities until his arrest in November 2011. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said that Paterno was cooperative with prosecutors and that he met his statutory responsibility to report the 2001 incident to school administrators.
Under Pennsylvania state law of the time, any state employee who learned about suspected child abuse was required to report the incident to his immediate supervisor. In the case of the 2001 incident, McQueary reported the incident to his immediate supervisor, Paterno. In turn, Paterno reported the incident to his immediate supervisor, Athletic Director Tim Curley, who then reported it to Gary Schultz, former Senior Vice President for Finance, a position which included financial oversight of the campus police department. For these reasons, Paterno did not initially come under criminal suspicion. Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, however, criticized Paterno for not doing enough to stop Sandusky's crimes. Noonan opined that while Paterno may have done what he was legally required to do, anyone with knowledge of possible sexual abuse against minors had a "moral responsibility" to notify police.
On the night of November 8, hundreds of students gathered in front on Paterno's home in support of the coach. Paterno thanked the crowd and said, "The kids who were victims or whatever they want to say, I think we all ought to say a prayer for them. It's a tough life when people do certain things to you." As Paterno began walking back into his home with the crowd chanting "Let Joe Stay," he turned around to instead lead the crowd in "We are Penn State" cheers, which unnamed members of the Penn State Board of Trustees viewed as insensitive. Within days of the scandal breaking in full, speculation was rife that Paterno would not be allowed to return as head coach. On November 9, Paterno announced that he would retire at the end of the season, stating:
. . . I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.
Later that evening, however, the Board of Trustees voted to relieve him of coaching duties effective immediately. They considered but ultimately rejected the idea of letting Paterno finish out the season, saying that growing outrage at the situation would have made it impossible for him to be effective. Unable to reach Paterno personally due to the crowd around his house and not wanting Paterno to find out through the media, the board notified him of their decision over the phone. Tom Bradley, Sandusky's successor as defensive coordinator, was named interim head coach for the remainder of the 2011 season. At the same meeting, school president Graham Spanier resigned rather than face being fired as well.
Paterno's dismissal was met with violence from students and alumni. That night, several thousand Penn State students chanting Paterno's name rioted in the streets, hurling rocks, tearing down street signs and overturning a news van. Paterno supporters and family members continued to harshly criticize the Board's actions in the months following his death, prompting the Board to release an additional statement explaining their decision. The board said that Paterno had demonstrated a "failure of leadership" by only fulfilling his legal obligation to inform Curley about the 2001 incident and not going to the police himself.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh and his firm, including a team of former federal prosecutors and FBI agents, were hired by the Penn State Board of Trustees to conduct an independent investigation into the scandal. In the opinion of writer Michael Sokolove, the mission Freeh was given seemed to presuppose that Sandusky's crimes were not his alone and that people who had reason to suspect him had looked away. After interviewing over 400 people and reviewing over 3.5 million documents,[dubious ] the independent investigation team reported that Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz had concealed Sandusky's actions in order to protect publicity surrounding Penn State's celebrated football program. Freeh's firm's investigation found that by their actions, the four men "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade." The report concluded that Paterno, along with Schultz, Spanier and Curley "concealed Sandusky's activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities."
E-mail uncovered by the independent investigators indicated that Paterno had been informed of, and was following, an investigation by state officials into a previous incident of sexual assault between Sandusky and another child in 1998, despite Paterno's grand jury testimony that he was unaware of any possible child abuse by Sandusky prior to 2001. When Paterno was asked, other than the incident that Mike McQueary reported to him, whether he knew of any other inappropriate sexual conduct by Sandusky with young boys, Paterno testified: "I do not know of anything else that Jerry would be involved in of that nature, no. I do not know of it. You did mention — I think you said something about a rumor. It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about somebody. I don't know. I don't remember, and I could not honestly say I heard a rumor." A May 1998 email exchange between Tim Curley, the athletic director and Gary Shultz, a campus administrator, references Paterno's knowledge at the time of an ongoing investigation surrounding accusations that Sandusky had molested a young boy. Freeh's team also discovered a 2001 email from Curley: after a meeting in which Curley, Schultz and Spanier had decided to have Curley report McQueary's information to the state Department of Public Welfare, Curley wrote in a subsequent email that, having discussed the plan with "Joe", he had now changed his mind about this plan of action. Since, the Freeh investigation reported, this was "the only known, intervening factor" with the apparent result that no report was made to the state Department of Public Welfare in 2001, this was widely inferred by the press to mean that Paterno had persuaded Curley (and Schultz and Spanier) not to report the incident to authorities outside the university. The report also revealed that several staff members and football coaches had known Sandusky was showering with young boys in the locker room showers for some time prior to 1998, but none of the individuals notified their superiors of this behavior.
In addition, the report said that even after Sandusky's retirement in 1999 Paterno, Schultz, Spanier and Curley "empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the University's facilities and affiliation with the University's prominent football program."
Following the release of the Freeh report, Nike, Inc. removed Paterno's name from the Joe Paterno Child Development Center, a child care facility at the company's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Brown University, Paterno's alma mater, announced that it would remove Paterno's name from its annual award honoring outstanding male freshman athletes and stated his status in the Brown Athletic Hall of Fame would be placed under review.
On July 14, 2012 The New York Times reported that in January 2011, Paterno opened "surprise" negotiations to prematurely end his contract with an additional $3 million early retirement payout, prior to public knowledge of the scandal. Although his contract was not up for negotiation until the end of 2011, Paterno initiated negotiations with his superiors to amend his contract in January 2011, the same month he was notified of the police investigation. By August 2011, Paterno and his attorneys had reached a deal with the PSU Board for a total package worth $5.5 million including: a $3 million cash payout, forgiveness of a $350,000 interest-free loan issued by the university, the use of a private box at Beaver Stadium and a private jet for 25 years, if he agreed the 2011 season would be his last. Ultimately, the board rejected Paterno's offer to resign at the end of the 2011 season, but faced with hate mail and a threat of a defamation lawsuit by Paterno's family, it agreed to give Paterno and his family the $5.5 million package, which included additional perks for the family, including the use of the athletic department's hydrotherapy facilities by his widow. A lawyer for the family claimed that the retirement package was proposed by Penn State.
After the Freeh report's release, national and local organizations called for the removal of the Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium. A small plane towed a banner over campus, reading Take the Statue Down or We Will. After some days of mixed messages, the school removed the statue on Sunday, July 22, in front of a crowd of student onlookers. The statue was reportedly put in storage. Spanier's successor as president, Rodney Erickson, said the statue had become "a source of division and an obstacle to healing" but made a distinction between it and the Paterno Library, also on campus.
On July 23, two weeks after the release of the Freeh report, the NCAA slapped Penn State with some of the most severe sanctions ever handed down in the history of collegiate athletics. Penn State was fined $60 million, stripped of 40 total scholarships from 2013 to 2017, banned from postseason play until 2016 and vacated all 112 of its wins dating back to 1998. This included the removal of Paterno's last 111 wins at Penn State, dropping him from first to 12th on the all-time wins list. (In early 2015 the wins were restored.) The NCAA reported that "Penn State's leadership failed to value and uphold institutional integrity, breaching both the NCAA Constitution and Division I rules", and that the NCAA "intended to remediate the 'sports is king' culture that led to failures in leadership." The report[clarification needed] harshly criticized Paterno for his role in the cover-up of Sandusky's crimes, saying that Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley had demonstrated "a failure of institutional and individual integrity." Although this action was outside the normal process for investigating major violations, the NCAA said this action was merited because the cover-up violated basic principles of intercollegiate athletics that were over and above specific policies.
In a sweeping consent decree, Penn State was required to adopt all recommended reforms in the Freeh report and enter into an "athletics integrity agreement" with the NCAA and Big Ten. The official NCAA statement said that this action "addresses the integration of the athletics department into the greater university community. Erickson agreed to accept the findings of the Freeh Report for the purpose of signing the consent decree, in the process waiving any right to appeal the sanctions imposed. Later, he said that he had no choice but to accept the sanctions, saying that had he not done so, Penn State would have faced penalties that were several times more severe, including cancellation of the next four football seasons (the so-called "death penalty") and an even larger fine. NCAA president Mark Emmert subsequently confirmed that the NCAA had considered imposing a "death penalty" on Penn State, but opted against it due to Penn State's swift corrective actions once the scandal broke in full.
The Board of Trustees has never officially agreed to the findings of the Freeh Report and the decisions by the NCAA. A few members have even spoken out against them including Trustee Lubrano and Trustee Joel Meyers. The findings and decisions have been criticized and some claim that the boards's actions have been misinterpreted. Trustee Ken Frazier reiterated on March 15, 2013, that the board has "never voted to accept the Freeh report." 
On September 4, 2013, in an interview conducted by Showtime's 60 Minutes Sports, the former Chief Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Frank Fina, who investigated and prosecuted Jerry Sandusky, stated that he found no evidence that Joe Paterno participated in a cover-up. Fina then qualified that statement, stating that he saw no need to judge Paterno beyond his own words and that Paterno himself said it best. "He said: 'I didn't do enough... I should have done more.'" 
Response to the Freeh Report
On September 13, 2012, a group of alumni and supporters called Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship released a review of the Freeh Report that was critical of the Freeh Group's investigation and conclusions. In February 2013, Paterno's family released a report written by Dick Thornburgh, a former U.S. attorney general and Pennsylvania governor, disputing Freeh's investigative methods and the portrayal of Paterno in his findings, calling the Freeh report a "rush to injustice". In response, Freeh called the Paterno family's report "self-serving" and said that it did not change the facts and findings of his initial investigation.
NBC sportscaster Bob Costas said, "What Freeh did was not only gather facts but he reached a conclusion which is at least debatable from those facts and then he assigned a motivation, not only to Curley and Schultz and Spanier, but he specifically assigned a very dark motivation to Joe Paterno, which seems like it might be quite a leap. . . . A reasonable person will conclude that there is some doubt here and that the other side of the story deserves to be heard." Similarly Todd Blackledge, ESPN college football analyst and former Penn State quarterback, noted on the media coverage, "it felt like the media felt at liberty to just connect the all those dots, whether they had facts. Based on whatever information they had, they were going to connect the dots and tell a story. And it had tremendous momentum. Because of the serious and horrendous nature of the allegations against Jerry, that narrative went pretty much unopposed."
This viewpoint has also been championed by documentarian John Ziegler, who is producing a documentary, The Framing of Joe Paterno, on his belief that Paterno was unfairly maligned by the Freeh Report and NCAA actions. As part of this documentary, he interviewed Sandusky to prove his point that Paterno had no detailed knowledge of the activity. Ziegler and former Penn State fullback and NFL player Franco Harris confronted NCAA President Mark Emmert and PSU President Rodney Erickson to answer questions about Paterno's involvement. Ziegler steadfastly maintains that Jerry Sandusky was a "chaste pedophile" and committed no sexual acts with his victims.
On May 30, 2013, the Paterno family and members of the Penn State community (though not the university itself) filed a lawsuit in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas in an attempt to overturn sanctions against the school. The lawsuit asserts that the NCAA and the other defendants breached their contractual obligations, violated their duties of good faith and fair dealing, intentionally interfered with contractual relations, and defamed and/or commercially disparaged the individuals filing the lawsuit.
Views on college football issues
Paterno was a long-time advocate for some type of college football playoff system. The question was posed to him frequently over the years, as only one of his five undefeated teams was voted national champion.
Paterno believed that scholarship college athletes should receive a modest stipend, so that they have some spending money. As justification, Paterno pointed out that many scholarship athletes came from poor families and that other students had time to hold down a part-time job, whereas busy practice and conditioning schedules prevented college athletes from working during the school year.
Paterno preferred to not play true freshmen. Later in his career, Paterno played true freshmen so as not to be at a competitive disadvantage. Some Penn State recruits, like recruits at many other schools, now graduate from high school a semester early so that they can enroll in college during the spring semester and participate in spring practice. Several team members from the recruiting class of 2005, including Justin King, Anthony Scirrotto, and Derrick Williams, received considerable playing time as true freshmen during the 2005–2006 season.
Penn State's football players were twice recognized for outstanding academic performance by the New America Foundation's Academic Bowl Championship Series while under the leadership of Paterno. The team was ranked number one out of the top 25 ranked BCS teams in 2009 and 2011. The criteria in the rankings include the graduation rate of the team as compared to the rest of university, the difference between the graduation rate of African-American players and the rest of the squad as well as the same statistics for the rest of the students at Penn State, and the graduation rate differences between the African American players and students.
Officiating and instant replay
In 2002, 76-year-old Paterno chased down referee Dick Honig in a dead sprint following a 42–35 overtime home loss to Iowa. Paterno saw Tony Johnson catch a pass for a first down with both feet in bounds on the stadium's video replay board, but the play was ruled an incompletion. This being after Penn State had rallied from a 35–13 deficit with 9 minutes left in the game to tie the score at 35, and were driving on their first possession in overtime (a touchdown would have tied the game at 42). Penn State failed on fourth down and Iowa held on for the win.
Just weeks later, in the final minute of the Michigan game, the same wide receiver, Johnson, made a catch which would have given Penn State a first down and put them in range for a game winning field goal. Although Johnson was ruled out of bounds, replays clearly showed that Johnson had both feet in bounds and the catch should have been ruled complete.
In 2004, the Big Ten Conference became the first college football conference to adopt a form of instant replay. The previous two incidents, along with Paterno's public objections, and the Big Ten's Clockgate controversy, are often cited as catalysts for its adoption. Within the next year, almost all of the Division I-A conferences adopted a form of instant replay based on the Big Ten model.
Outside of football
Philanthropy and education
After the announcement of his hiring in 1966, Paterno set out to conduct what he called a "Grand Experiment" in melding athletics and academics in the collegiate environment, an idea that he had learned during his years at Brown. As a result, Penn State's players have consistently demonstrated above-average academic success compared to Division I-A schools nationwide. According to the NCAA's 2008 Graduation Rates Report, Penn State's four-year Graduation Success Rate of 78% easily exceeds the 67% Division I average, second to only Northwestern among Big Ten institutions. In 2011, Penn State football players had an 80% graduation rate and showed no achievement gap between its black and white players, which is extremely rare for Division I football teams. The New American Foundation ranked Penn State No. 1 in its 2011 Academic Bowl Championship Series.
Paterno was also renowned for his charitable contributions to academics at Penn State. He and his wife Sue have contributed over $4 million towards various departments and colleges, including support for the Penn State All-Sports Museum, which opened in 2002, and the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, which opened in 2003. After helping raise over $13.5 million in funds for the 1997 expansion of Pattee Library, the University named the expansion Paterno Library in their honor.
In 2007, former player Franco Harris and his company R Super Foods honored Paterno for his contributions to Penn State by featuring his story and picture on boxes of Super Donuts and Super Buns in Central PA. A portion of the sales will be donated to an endowment fund for the university library that bears his name.
Paterno also attended the annual Penn State Dance Marathon, a popular weekend-long charity event and the largest student-run philanthropy in the world (it raised over $10 million in 2012), every year to raise money for kids with cancer.
Paterno was a political conservative and a personal friend of President George H. W. Bush, endorsing him as a candidate in a speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention. Paterno was also a close friend of President Gerald R. Ford, and introduced President George W. Bush at a campaign rally before the 2004 presidential election. Before the 1974 Pennsylvania gubernatorial election, a group of Pennsylvania Republican Party leaders briefly considered Paterno for Andrew Lewis' ticket as the candidate for lieutenant governor.
In 2004, his son Scott Paterno, an attorney, won the Republican primary for Pennsylvania's 17th congressional district but lost in the November general election to Democratic incumbent Tim Holden. "I brought my kids up to think for themselves since day one," Joe Paterno said in 2008. "I got a son who's a Republican, who ran for Congress, Scott. I'm a Republican. I've got a son, Jay, who's for Obama. I've got a daughter, who I'm pretty sure she's going to be for Hillary [Clinton]. So God bless America."
While serving as an assistant coach, Paterno met freshman Suzanne Pohland, an English literature honors student, at the campus library. Paterno and Pohland, a Latrobe native 13 years his junior, married in 1962, the year she graduated. They had five children: Diana, Joseph Jr. "Jay", Mary Kay, David, and Scott. All of their children are Penn State graduates, and Jay Paterno was the quarterbacks coach at Penn State until his departure following the hiring of new head coach Bill O'Brien on January 7, 2012. The Paternos have 17 grandchildren.
Paterno and his wife co-authored the children's book We Are Penn State!, which takes place during a typical Penn State homecoming weekend.
Failing health and death
In November 2006, Paterno was involved in a sideline collision during a game against Wisconsin. He was unable to avoid the play and was struck in the knee by Badgers linebacker DeAndre Levy's helmet. Paterno, then 79 years old, suffered a fractured shin bone and damage to knee ligaments. He coached the 2007 Outback Bowl from the press box before making a full recovery.
In November 2008, Paterno had successful hip replacement surgery after spraining his leg while trying to demonstrate onside kicks during a practice session. While recovering, he coached the remainder of the season and the 2009 Rose Bowl from the press box. After sustaining these injuries, he made use of a motorized golf cart to move around the field during practices.
Paterno was injured again in August 2011, after colliding with a player during practice. He sustained hairline fractures to his hip and shoulder. No surgery was required, but Paterno began the 2011 regular season schedule in a wheelchair.
In November 2011, Scott Paterno reported that his father had a treatable form of lung cancer. On January 13, 2012, Paterno was hospitalized in State College for complications relating to his cancer treatment, and he remained there until his death nine days later on January 22, 2012. His death resulted in tributes from prominent leaders in the U.S., including former President George H. W. Bush, who called Paterno "an outstanding American who was respected not only on the field of play but in life generally—and he was, without a doubt, a true icon in the world of sports." Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said of Paterno, "His legacy as the winningest coach in major college football and his generosity to Penn State as an institution and to his players, stand as monuments to his life... His place in our state's history is secure." On January 23, Corbett ordered all state flags to be lowered to half mast in Paterno's honor. At the time of his death, Penn State was still finalizing Paterno's retirement package.
Paterno's funeral was held in State College on January 25, 2012. About 750 mourners attended the private ceremony, after which thousands of mourners lined the route of the funeral procession. Paterno was buried in Spring Creek Presbyterian Cemetery just outside the town. Approximately 12,000 people attended a public memorial service that was held at the Bryce Jordan Center on January 26, 2012.
Head coaching record
Paterno has an official career record of 409 wins, 136 losses, and 3 ties. At the time of his death, Paterno had accumulated 409 total collegiate wins, but on July 23, 2012, NCAA rulings officially vacated 111 of Paterno's wins based on the findings of the Freeh report regarding his involvement in the Penn State sex abuse scandal. All wins dating back to 1998 were vacated, the year Paterno was first informed of Sandusky's suspected child abuse. Based on the criteria used by the NCAA, Paterno no longer held the record for most victories by an NCAA Division I football coach. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden held the NCAA major college record for wins at 377, while for NCAA Division I schools, Grambling State University coach Eddie Robinson's 408 victories stood as the official record. The 111 wins were returned to Joe Paterno on January 16, 2015 as a part of a settlement between the NCAA and Penn State. Those 111 wins make Paterno the most victorious coach of all time in FBS NCAA football with a total of 409 wins.
- List of college football coaches with 200 wins
- List of college football coaches with 30 seasons
- List of College Football Hall of Fame inductees (coaches)
- Paterno coached the first nine games of the season before he was fired on November 9. Tom Bradley was named interim head coach to replace him. Penn State credits the first nine games to Paterno, and the final four to Bradley.
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- Penn State profile
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- Joe Paterno at the College Football Data Warehouse
- Joe Paterno at the Internet Movie Database
- Appearances on C-SPAN
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- Joe Paterno collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Joe Paterno collected news and commentary at The Wall Street Journal
- Joe Paterno at Find a Grave