Ex-Penn State coach Joe Paterno dead at 85

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Joe Paterno, who racked up more wins than anyone else in major college football but was fired from Penn State amid a child sex abuse scandal has died. He was 85.

His family released a statement Sunday morning to announce his death.

Paterno's son Scott announced Nov. 18 that his father was being treated for lung cancer, which was diagnosed in mid-November during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness.

The storied career of "JoePa" included 409 wins in 46 seasons and two national championships.

But his reputation for success with honor was shattered when a former assistant was charged with molesting 10 boys during a 15-year span, including some in the Penn State athletic complex.

Critics said Paterno should have done more to stop it. He was fired Nov. 9.

In all, Paterno guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons.

The winningest major college football coach of all time, Paterno was diagnosed shortly after Penn State's Board of Trustees ousted him Nov. 9 in the aftermath of the child sex abuse charges against former assistant Jerry Sandusky. Paterno's been getting treatment since, and his health problems were worsened when he broke his pelvis — an injury that first cropped up when he was accidentally hit in preseason practice last year.

"Over the last few days Joe Paterno has experienced further health complications," family spokesman Dan McGinn said in a brief statement Saturday to The Associated Press. "His doctors have now characterized his status as serious.

"His family will have no comment on the situation and asks that their privacy be respected during this difficult time," he said.

Paterno's sons Scott and Jay both took to Twitter Saturday night to refute reports that their father had died.

Complete coverage: Penn State scandal

Wrote Jay Paterno: "I appreciate the support (and) prayers. Joe is continuing to fight."

Meanwhile, about 200 students and townspeople gathered Saturday night in State College at a statue of Paterno.

Some brought candles, while others held up their smart phones to take photos of the scene. The mood was somber, with no chanting or shouting.

Jay Paterno tweeted, "Drove by students at the Joe statue. Just told my Dad about all the love & support—inspiring him."

The statue is just outside a gate at Beaver Stadium.

The 85-year-old Paterno has been in the hospital since Jan. 13 for observation for what his family had called minor complications from his cancer treatments. Not long before that, he conducted his only interview since losing his job, with The Washington Post. Paterno was described as frail then and wearing a wig. The second half of the two-day interview was conducted by his bedside.

The final days of Paterno's Penn State career were easily the toughest in his 61 years with the university and 46 seasons as head football coach.

Sandusky, a longtime defensive coordinator who was on Paterno's staff in two national title seasons, was arrested Nov. 5 and ultimately charged with sexually abusing a total of 10 boys over 15 years. His arrest sparked outrage not just locally but across the nation and there were widespread calls for Paterno to quit.

Paterno announced late on Nov. 9 that he would retire at the end of the season but just hours later he received a call from board vice chairman John Surma, telling him he had been terminated as coach. By that point, a crowd of students and media were outside the Paterno home. When news spread that Paterno had been dumped, there was rioting in State College.

Police on Saturday night had barricaded off the block where Paterno lives, and a police car was stationed about 50 yards from his home. A light was on in the living room but there was no activity inside. No one was outside, other than reporters and photographers stationed there.

Trustees said this week they pushed Paterno out in part because he failed a moral responsibility to report an allegation made in 2002 against Sandusky to authorities outside the university. They also felt he had challenged their authority and that, as a practical matter, with all the media in town and attention to the Sandusky case, he could no longer run the team.

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