Affectionately known as “Joe Pa” to fans across the nation, former Penn State football head coach Joe Paterno passed away Sunday morning at the age of 85.
He had been diagnosed with lung cancer earlier in the year and had been hospitalized recently.
Paterno coached at Penn State for 46 years before he was fired by the university’s board of trustees in November 2011. In his time with the program, the legendary coach led the Nittany Lions to two national championship, three Big Ten championships and accrued 409 wins — making him the winningest head coach in NCAA Division I history.
In the wake of Paterno’s death, MSU football head coach Mark Dantonio issued a statement extending his condolences to the former’s family.
“On behalf of my immediate family and the Michigan State football family, we express our deepest sympathy to Joe Paterno’s wife, Sue, his five children and 17 grandchildren, as well as his extended family, the Penn State football family and the entire State College community,” Dantonio said.
In four games against Paterno, Dantonio was 2-2 with the final matchup taking place on Nov. 27, 2010 — when the Spartans clinched a share of the Big Ten title with a 28-22 victory in Beaver Stadium.
Dantonio went on to praise the legacy Paterno left at Penn State and said he would remember Paterno as a “steward of our profession.”
“Joe dedicated his life to Penn State and college football,” Dantonio said. “He had unparalleled success during his 46 seasons as the head coach at Penn State. Joe was a major player who helped revolutionize the game of college football.
“In his six-plus decades at Penn State, he influenced and impacted countless numbers of players and people at a championship level.”
Recently Paterno had come under fire for his alleged involvement in a child sex abuse scandal that rocked the university and eventually led to Paterno’s firing. Paterno was criticized for not acting more aggressively after allegations of child sex abuse against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky were brought to his attention in 2002.
During his time at Penn State, Paterno helped the football program enter into national prominence it is today and reportedly has donated more than $4 million back to the university.