What is Pennsylvania State University known for?

The rise and fall of Joe Paterno

At the height of his career, Joe Paterno was the most successful coach in college football history.

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno will take on the Northwestern Wildcats on September 24, 2005 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. Penn State won 34-29.

(Photo: Brian Bahr_Getty Images)

From 1966 to 2011, Paterno was the head coach of Pennsylvania State University for 46 seasons and led his team, the Nittany Lions, to 37 bowl appearances with 24 wins. In October 2011, Paterno, or & x201C; Joe Pa & x201D; as he was affectionately known in Penn State, he set a record when college defeated Illinois, a win that meant Paterno's 409 career win. This put him at the top of the list of most career wins for a Division I coach.

Less than two weeks later, Paterno was fired from his position, his questionable reputation and legacy unraveling what he knew or did not know about the headline-grabbing Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. The team's defense coordinator, Sandusky, was arrested and charged with 52 cases of sexual abuse of boys over a 15-year period from 1994 to 2009.

These two weeks form the basis of the new drama, Paterno, Aired April 7, with Oscar-winning Al Pacino in the title role and directed by Barry Levinson (The wizard of lies, You don't know Jack).

Al Pacino as disgraced head coach Joe Paterno in 'Paterno.'

(Photo: Atsushi Nishijima / HBO)

Joseph Paterno was born on December 21, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Brown University, he became an assistant coach at Penn State in 1950. He worked under his former Brown trainer, Charles Rip. Engle and after 16 years as Engle'Paterno followed his assistant in 1966. Paterno led Penn State to undefeated consecutive seasons in 1968 and 1969 and undefeated seasons in 1973, 1986 and 1994.

Paterno became the first coach to win all four main bowls & # x2014; Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar and saw nearly 300 of his previous protégés contribute to the success of the NFL. In 1973 he turned down an offer to train professional football with the New England Patriots and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Joe Paterno of Penn State University celebrates the 1970s.

(Photo: Sporting News via Getty Images)

During his 61-year tenure at Penn State, he became an icon who became the face and epitome of what the university stood for. & # x201C; Penn State won because [Paterno] wanted to hire people with the same values ​​that he had. & # x201D; Charlie Pittman, who played at Penn State from 1967 to 1969, said Fox Sports in 2012. & # x201C; People who wanted to compete at the highest level and people who wanted to participate and really enjoy college, not just to play football. & # x201D;

Paterno called it his & x201C; Grand Experiment & x201D; and it brought the college dominance and respect on and off the field, with commentators and alumni bringing in the coach. Paterno, a popular figure in the US state of Penn, was known for both his bottle-thick, angular glasses and his leadership skills. In 2000, a new library with his name was opened on campus. For decades, Paterno also supported the school with donations of over $ 4 million.

In 1962 he married Suzanne Pohland, whom he met as a student at Penn State. The couple had five children together, all of whom were graduating from university.

Joe Paterno (C) poses with his three quarterfinals (L-R) in 1988 by Doug Sieg, Lance Lonergan and Tom Bill.

(Photo: Getty Images)

"To me, a Brooklyn kid whose grandfather was an immigrant, it means a lot to me to do this." Paterno said at a ceremony following his record-breaking 409 win on October 29, 2011.

He would only enjoy the career milestone for a week.

On November 5, the investigation into the allegations against Sandusky became public. A day later, Penn State Sporting Director Tim Curley resigned. Increasingly criticized for what he knew or did not know about Sandusky, Paterno released a statement on Nov. 9, announcing his retirement at the end of the 2011 season. & # x201C; This is a tragedy. It is one of the greatest sufferings of my life. In retrospect, I wish I had done more, & # x201D; read the statement.

His attempt to control early school leaving was short-lived. Hours after its statement was released, the Penn State Board of Trustees announced that it had sacked both school president Graham Spanier and Paterno. The main character in Penn State's legendary football program was out.

Thousands of students gathered outside the school administration on the night of his release to show support for their revered Joe Pa. Frustrated, the crowd moved to downtown State College, where they sang the former coach's name, dismantled light poles, and overturned a television news van. "I am disappointed with the decision of the board of trustees, but I have to accept it." Paterno said in a statement after announcing his departure.

Head coach Joe Paterno was sacked at State College, Pennsylvania during the Penn State Board of Trustees press conference in downtown Penn State on November 9, 2011.

(Photo: Patrick Smith_Getty Images)

How exactly was Paterno aware of Sandusky's activities? In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Paterno Director Levinson says uncertainty underscores the biography.

& # x201C; I think we're showing all aspects of it, and I think that's what makes it so compelling because, on the one hand, you say, "Well, look, he knew about this." and on another you say, “Well maybe he didn't.” 'I don't know that'. & # x201D; According to an FBI investigation, Paterno had withheld information about the abuse committed by his assistant coach.

It is unknown whether his legacy could have been revised over time. After leaving Penn State, Paterno began suffering from health problems and was diagnosed with lung cancer in late 2011. His spectacular fall would undo the many obituaries written about him when Paterno succumbed to his illness on January 22, 2012 and died at the age of 85.

In October 2012, Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for his offenses. The day before his verdict was pronounced, Sandusky continued to insist on his innocence in the case.

Joe Paterno speaks from home to a large group of students who gathered at his home at State College, Pennsylvania on November 8, 2011. Behind Paterno is his son Scott Paterno.

(Photo: Rob Carr_Getty Images)

In the hours after his release was announced on November 9, 2011, Paterno, accompanied by his wife, came out of his home to face a crowd of shocked students and reporters. & # x201C; I want to say hello to all of these great students that I love. Hey you are great. All from you. When I say boys you know what I mean: you know I mean girls too & # x201D; Paterno said when asked why he decided to address the crowd.

"I'm not there," maybe. A phone call stopped me. We will go from there. Thank you, thank you for coming, & # x201D; he continued before he and his wife went back inside.

Paterno turned one last time. & # x201C; Hey, one thing, & # x201D; he added. & # x201C; Pray a little for these victims. & # x201D;

By Colin Bertram

Colin Bertram is a writer and editor specializing in entertainment and news journalism.

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