Papa Joe dies at 85
Paterno legacy damaged by scandal, but not erased
For Joe Paterno, the impact is incalculable, the people he connected with extending far beyond the players he coached for 62 years at Penn State, the last 46 as head football coach. Paterno always tried to be the giant who walked among the everyman both in the school’s greatest moments and, it turns out, in its worst.
This is a complicated passing. What was once the most consistent and basic of messages – honor, ethics and education – seemingly lived out as close to its ideal as possible was rocked Nov. 5, 2011, when a grand jury indicted Paterno’s former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, of multiple counts of sexual abuse of children.
Many, including Penn State’s Board of Trustees, believed Paterno could have and should have done more to stop Sandusky, especially after allegations of misconduct arose in 2002. Within days Paterno was fired from the program and school to which he’d become synonymous.
Now, a little more than two months later, he’s gone for good, a bitter, brutal ending for an American original.
He was the winningest college football coach of all time, compiling a 409-136-3 record. He won national titles in 1982 and 1986 and recorded four other undefeated seasons, including consecutively in 1968 and 1969.
He was a bridge from a simpler time to the cutthroat business college football has become, somehow serving as both a progressive force (he believed in players’ rights, a playoff system and welcomed advancements in television) and a stubborn traditionalist (the Penn State uniforms remained basic, he never learned how to send a text message and he still used old-school discipline).