WASHINGTON — Penn State’s iconic American football coach Joe Paterno, who was fired last year in the wake of child sex abuse charges against an assistant, died early Sunday after suffering complications from lung cancer, his family said.
“It is with great sadness that we announce that Joe Paterno passed away earlier today,” the Paterno family said in a statement.
“His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled. He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been.”
Paterno, 85, won more games than any other top-level US collegiate coach in history and the fame of Penn State University’s gridiron team helped enlarge the school’s reputation and academic offerings. But his storied coaching career ended under a dark cloud.
He was sacked late last year for failing to take tougher action against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky after being told about an incident in a locker room shower in which Sandusky was allegedly molesting a 10-year-old boy.
Sandusky, on the Penn State staff from 1969 through 1999, is facing trial after being accused of more than 50 counts of molesting 10 boys over an 11-year period. He has denied the charges.
Various media reports said Paterno’s family, including his wife Sue, five children and 17 grandchildren, had been called to his bedside at Mount Nittany Medical Center in the State College, Pennsylvania area.
Paterno, who broke a hip in a fall at home in December, had been in hospital there since January 13.