By Cody Straub and Joey Jackson –
On Sunday the Penn State community, the college football nation, and the world lost not only a great football coach, but a great educator and man. 85-year old Joseph Vincent Paterno died at Mount Nittany Medical Center Sunday morning after his two month battle with lung cancer.
“He was 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,” said former President George H.W. Bush regarding Joe Paterno.
“He was more than just a coach, a man, or a human being, he was everything to Penn State,” said Penn Manor senior Vicky Nase.
Penn State has planned memorial services for all this week to honor “JoePa” beginning Tuesday January 24 with a 10 hour viewing at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on the Penn State Campus, and another shorter viewing on Wednesday at the same location. Both will be open to the public. A funeral service for close friends and family will be held Wednesday afternoon, and to wrap up the week a public memorial service will be held on Thursday at the Bryce Jordan Center. All of the public services are bound to be packed as many people want to pay their respects, and thank him one last time for all that he did for the University of Penn State. On Sunday night a student candle light vigil was held outside the iconic Old Main at Penn State to mourn the loss of Paterno.
During his almost 62-year tenure at Penn State, Paterno became the winningest coach in college football history with 409 wins, but he is arguably most known for the impact he has had in the community, donating countless dollars to the university, including raising over $13 million for an expansion to the Penn State library which was later named the “Paterno Library.”
But what puts Paterno above all of the rest, is the academic and moral standard he held his students to. The “Grand Experiment” was Paterno’s attempt at fusing the academic and athletic lives of his players. In result of this, Penn State has graduated over three quarters of its football players, well above the national average of about 67%.
Written by the statue of Joe Paterno, outside Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, is a quote from Paterno himself, “They ask me what I’d like written about me when I’m gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.”
Paterno had been on the coaching staff at Penn State since 1950, but his record setting tenure was abruptly ended by the university on November 9, 2011 in lieu of a sex scandal involving Paterno’s former Defensive Coordinator, Jerry Sandusky.
Sandusky is currently facing 52 child abuse charges, including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Many of the victims of this abuse came from Sandusky’s own Second Mile charity program. The program, founded by Sandusky in 1977, is a charity that benefits under privileged kids and their parents.
Paterno, who’s contract with Penn State was ending after this past season, had already announced his retirement following the season, however, the board of trustees at Penn State decided prompt action was necessary and announced the immediate termination of Paterno’s coaching job.
With Paterno’s health already in question before these string of events, his condition making a turn for the worst wasn’t much of a surprise for many.
“I knew that as soon as Joe was done with Penn State that he’d die,” senior Alex Cummins said. “He just didn’t have the will to live without football.”
Unfortunately, Paterno will forever be linked to the Sandusky sex scandal.
“Everyone will remember him as a great coach, but Sandusky has definitely tarnished his legacy,” Cummins commented in remembrance of Paterno.
ESPN college football analyst Joe Schad disagrees, “That is just one chapter in a very long book of Joe Paterno, and people would say the rest is good.” That has become very clear since his death with the out- pour of positive statements released by those in the college football community.
“He will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game,” said new Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer when interviewed by ESPN.
“There are no words to express my respect for him as a man and as a coach,” said new Penn State head coach Bill O ‘Brien.
“Joe Paterno gave his life to college football. He gave his life to the players and college football,” said Nick Saban head coach at the University of Alabama.
The Paterno family statement said it best, ” “His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled.”
Simon Zimmerman and David Mohimani contributed to this story.