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Coach embroiled in sex abuse scandal dies from cancer

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 22nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Tragically, his life did not end on an up note. Joe Paterno, the most successful coach in major college football history career came to an end last November after he became embroiled in a major sex abuse scandal. Paterno has now passed away from complications due to his lung cancer treatment. He was 85.  

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The longtime Penn State head coach had been diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after the university's Board of Trustees voted to fire him. He had been hospitalized in December and again in January for what his son called minor complications from his cancer treatments. Paterno died surrounded by his family at State College's Mount Nittany Medical Center.

Known as "JoePa" by generations of his players and football fans alike, Paterno was widely admired in football circles for what he called his "Grand Experiment." Paterno expected that his big-time college football players could succeed on the field while upholding high academic and moral standards.

Under his leadership, the Nittany Lions won two national championships, went undefeated five times and finished in the top 25 national rankings 35 times, under Paterno's leadership. In 2009, the Nittany Lions posted an 85 percent graduation rate.

"The acclaim for Joe Paterno has stemmed largely from the contrast between the high academic and moral standards he has tried to exemplify and the shameless conduct that often embarrasses and dishonors the college sport he cherishes," Michael O'Brien wrote in a 1999 biography of Paterno, "No Ordinary Joe."

Paterno received the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame Distinguished American Award in 1991.

"What are coaches?" Paterno said at the dinner celebrating his award, according to his university biography. "Number one, we're teachers and we're educators. We have the same obligation as all teachers at our institutions, except we probably have more influence over our young people than anyone other than their families," he said.

A dark cloud rolled over Paterno's life and legacy came last October, when state authorities charged two university officials with misleading investigators and failing to report alleged sexual abuse in 2002. A Penn State assistant told a grand jury he saw former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky performing a homosexual act on a boy in a shower at the football complex.

The assistant reported it to Paterno the following day, who said he passed the report along to then-Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, a university vice president who oversaw campus police. The next month, the university fired Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier.

At the time of his dismissal, Paterno said in a statement released by his son, Scott Paterno, that he was "distraught" over the sex abuse scandal.

The university is "considering appropriate ways" to honor Paterno's legacy, the statement said, and its athletics department is "consulting with members of the Penn State community on the nature and timing of the gathering."

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