WASHINGTON — Penn State’s iconic American football coach Joe Paterno, who was fired in the wake of child sex abuse charges against an assistant, was in serious condition due to recent complications from lung cancer.
But his family denied reports that he had died.
“CBS report is wrong – Dad is alive but in serious condition. We continue to ask for your prayers and privacy during this time,” Paterno’s son, Scott, said on Twitter on Saturday.
A family spokesman said the reports were “absolutely not true,” according to an article posted on the New Jersey Star-Ledger’s website.
Earlier, the same spokesman said that Paterno had experienced further complications from lung cancer.
“His doctors have now characterized his status as serious. His family will have no comment on the situation and asks that their privacy be respected during this difficult time,” his statement said.
Various media reports said that 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 also broke a hip in a fall at home in December, has been in hospital there since January 13.
Paterno revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer on November 18, nine days after he was sacked as head coach of the Penn State University football team.
Complications from his cancer treatments had sent the 85-year-old coach to hospital in December.
Paterno won more games than any other top-level US collegiate coach in history and the fame of Penn State’s gridiron team helped enlarge the university, its reputation and academic offerings.
He was sacked 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 the coach 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.
“I’m sick about it” if Sandusky is proven guilty, Paterno said in an interview with the Washington Post earlier this month.