STATE COLLEGE, Pa. Joe Paterno's doctors said that the former Penn State coach's condition had become "serious," following complications from lung cancer in recent days.
The winningest major college football coach, 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. While undergoing treatment, his health problems worsened when he broke his pelvis the same injury he sustained during 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."
Paterno's sons, Scott and Jay, each took to Twitter on Saturday night to refute reports that their father had died.
Wrote Jay Paterno: "I appreciate the support & prayers. Joe is continuing to fight."
Quoting individuals close to the family, The Washington Post reported on its website that Paterno remained connected to a ventilator, but had communicated his wishes not to be kept alive through any extreme artificial means. The paper said his family was weighing whether to take him off the ventilator on Sunday.
The 85-year-old Paterno has been in the hospital since Jan. 13 for observation for what his family called minor complications from his cancer treatments. Not long before that, he conducted his only interview since losing his job, with the Post. Paterno was described as frail and wearing a wig. The second half of the two-day interview was conducted from his bedside.
Roughly 200 students and townspeople gathered Saturday night at a statue of Paterno just outside a gate at Beaver Stadium. 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.
"Drove by students at the Joe statue," Jay Paterno tweeted. "Just told my Dad about all the love & supportinspiring him."
Penn State student David Marselles held a candle in his right hand and posed next to a life-sized cardboard cutout of Paterno that he keeps at his apartment. A friend took a photo on the frigid night.
"I came to Penn State because of Joe Paterno. Since I was a little kid, I've been watching the games ... screaming `We Are ... Penn State' because of him. ... He inspired me to go to college," Marselles said. "With such a tragic event like this, I just thought it was necessary to show my support."
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 during two national title seasons, was arrested Nov. 5 and ultimately charged with sexually abusing a total of 10 boys over 15 years. Sandusky's 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 hours later he received a call from board vice chairman John Surma, telling him he had been terminated. 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.