By Tommy Schaffer
This past Sunday, college football lost one of the best coaches to ever take the field. Joe Paterno (1926- 2012), otherwise known as “Joe Pa,” died at the age of 85 from complications of lung cancer. Paterno spent 61 years in the Penn State organization, 46 of them as head coach of the Nittany Lions. Over that span, Paterno amassed a 406-163-3 overall record, two national titles and coached over 250 players who would eventually go professional. He holds the record for the most wins of all-time, coaching five undefeated teams as he accumulated many awards and accolades throughout his time at Penn State.
More recently, however, Paterno has faced criticism over a scandal that shocked the college football community. During the past season Jerry Sandusky, long time defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions (1969-1999), was arrested on 40 counts of sexual abuse of eight boys over a 15 year period. Paterno was criticized because while the actions of Sandusky were reported to him, Paterno never contacted the authorities. Instead, he told his administrators who he thought could better handle the situation.
When the scandal surfaced on Nov. 5, 2011, Paterno was let go a few days later. He left a team he had coached to an 8-1 record with only three regular season games left. Following the decision there were riots, as many students and alumni sided with Paterno rather than the school’s decision to let him go. A few days following his firing, Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer, which eventually took his life.
Although more recent news may have tarnished his legacy, the image of Paterno pacing the sidelines in his Penn State windbreaker, thick-rimmed glasses and black shoes will be a mark he will leave behind forever in the memory of Nittany Lions fans.