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Joe Paterno, the man who won more games than any other major college football coach only to be fired before the 2011 season ended amid a child sex abuse scandal, died Sunday. He was 85.
The family released a statement Sunday morning, confirming his death after early incorrect reports that Paterno had died Saturday. The cause of death was lung cancer, the hospital, Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College, Pennsylvania, said in a statement.
Paterno was diagnosed mid-November, and his son Scott announced November 18 that “JoePa” was being treated for lung cancer. “Last weekend, my father was diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness,” his son said in a statement at the time.
The cancer proved to be aggressive during an already dismal period of his life. After 409 wins and two national championships in Paterno’s 46 season career, JoePa was fired after a former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was charged with sexually molesting 10 young boys, including some in the Penn State athletic complex. Paterno was fired November 9 after he was criticized for not doing enough to stop Sandusky.
“He died as he lived,” the family statement released today reads. “He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”
Paterno’s abrupt firing sent shockwaves through the world, drawing mixed reactions from fans, critics, and Hollywood stars. Ashton Kutcher, specifically, was harshly criticized for his view on the firing, when he tweeted, “I find it in poor taste.”
Paterno leaves a legacy not only as the face of Penn State, but through his “living legacy of five kids, 17 grandchildren, and hundreds of young men whose lives he changed in more ways than can begin to be counted,” the statement reads.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests that donations be made to the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania or the Penn State-THON, The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.
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