UNIVERSITY PARK – The Pennsylvania State University and college athletics mourns the passing of Joseph V. Paterno, the winningest coach in the history of major college football.
Paterno, who turned 85 last month, passed away today (Jan. 22) surrounded by his family at Mount Nittany Medical Center, near the University Park campus. The legendary teacher, mentor and humanitarian had been diagnosed with lung cancer last November and recently had been hospitalized.
A member of the Penn State coaching staff for 62 seasons, Paterno tremendously impacted the lives of thousands of current and former Penn State students, student-athletes and staff, Nittany Lion fans, State College community members and followers of college athletics. The Nittany Lions’ head football coach for nearly 46 years, he was among the first three active coaches to be inducted into the National Football Foundation’s College Hall of Fame, in 2007.
Paterno passionately and vigorously served the Penn State football program and the university with principle, distinction and success with honor since matriculating to State College in 1950 as a motivated and enthusiastic 23-year-old with Rip Engle, his head coach at Brown University. After 16 years as an assistant coach under Engle, Paterno was named Penn State’s 14th head football coach on Feb. 19, 1966, when Engle retired.
Head coach of the Nittany Lions since 1966, Paterno is the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) leader in career victories, earning a 409-136-3 career record, a 74.9 winning percentage. The iconic Paterno is one of just three coaches in NCAA history to post 400 career wins, passing legendary Grambling coach Eddie Robinson for second place with the Nittany Lions’ win over Illinois in Beaver Stadium on Oct. 29, 2011.
Paterno also was college football’s all-time leader in bowl victories (24) and appearances (37). His post-season record of 24-12-1 gave him a winning percentage of 66.2, good for No. 3 all-time among coaches with at least 15 bowl visits. The Nittany Lions were 12-5 in contests that comprise the Bowl Championship Series under Paterno.
Paterno’s career was marked with distinction, glorious accomplishments and immeasurable contributions to Penn State. As a young head coach, he created the “Grand Experiment,” boldly stating that his teams would be comprised of young men able to play football at the highest level, graduate and make significant contributions to society upon their graduation.
The NCAA’s 2011 graduation data revealed that Penn State and Stanford, at 87 percent, posted the highest Graduation Success Rate (GSR) among teams ranked in the final 2011 Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ polls and Bowl Championship Series rankings. Penn State and Stanford were tied for No. 10 overall among the nation’s 120 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions. Penn State’s 87 percent GSR was significantly higher than the 67 percent FBS average and was second to Northwestern (94) among Big Ten institutions.
Penn State football student-athletes earned a nation’s-best 15 CoSIDA Academic All-American® selections from 2006-10, bringing to 47 the number of Academic All-Americans under Paterno (37 first team). The Nittany Lions’ 49 all-time Academic All-Americans® are No. 3 nationally among FBS institutions.
Paterno’s coaching portfolio included two National Championships (1982, 1986); five undefeated, untied teams; 23 finishes in the Top 10 of the national rankings; an unprecedented five American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Coach-of-the-Year plaques, and more than 350 former players who signed National Football League contracts, 33 of them first-round draft choices. Eight Penn State football student-athletes have been NFL first-round selections in the past eight drafts.
His teams registered seven undefeated regular-seasons and he had 35 teams finish in the Top 25. Penn State won the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy, emblematic of Eastern football supremacy, 24 times under Paterno, including in 2008 and ’09.
During Paterno’s remarkable tenure, there were 888 head coaching changes among Football Bowl Subdivision programs, an average of more than six changes per I-A institution.
Paterno passed his long-time friend and colleague, Bobby Bowden, on Sept. 20, 2008, for the lead in all-time victories among FBS coaches. His 46 seasons as head coach are the most in FBS history and he is second all-time in games coached (548) among major college coaches. Entering the 2011 season, Paterno’s winning percentage of 74.7 ranked No. 4 among active Football Bowl Subdivision coaches (10 or more years).
Penn State is one of just eight teams with 800 wins all-time and Paterno has been a member of the Nittany Lion staff for 513 of them — 62 percent of the 827 all-time total. Penn State posted a record of 513-184-7 since Paterno joined the staff in 1950, the nation’s third-highest winning percentage.
Since 1966, Penn State has had 79 first-team All-Americans, with defensive tackle Devon Still being selected a consensus All-American and the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Under Paterno, the Nittany Lions counted 16 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes, 37 first-team Capital One/CoSIDA All-Americans® (47 overall) and 18 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners.
Paterno directed the Nittany Lions to 15 seasons with at least victories and 12-0 campaigns in 1973, 1986 and 1994. The ’94 team captured Penn State’s first Big Ten Championship and became the first Big Ten team to earn a 12-0 mark. Penn State also earned 21 seasons with at least 10 victories and 13 Top 5 finishes in the polls under Paterno’s dedicated and enthusiastic leadership.
Paterno was the only coach to win the four traditional New Year’s Day bowl games — the Rose, Sugar, Cotton and Orange bowls — and he owned a 6-0 record in the Fiesta Bowl. He was selected by the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame as the first active coach to receive its Distinguished American Award. Paterno also was the 1986 Sports Illustrated Sportsman-of-the-Year.
A member of the Nittany Lions’ coaching staff spanning the administrations of 13 U.S. presidents (starting with Harry Truman), Paterno passed Paul “Bear” Bryant for the lead in career Division I-A wins on October 27, 2001 when the Lions secured his 324th victory by rallying from a 27-9 deficit to defeat Ohio State, 29-27, at the time the greatest Beaver Stadium comeback under the legendary coach.
On Nov. 6, 2010, Paterno saw his resurgent and determined squad erase a 21-0 deficit to score touchdowns on five consecutive possessions and beat Northwestern, 35-21. The victory was No. 400 in Paterno’s career as he became the first Football Bowl Subdivision coach to reach the milestone. The 100,000-plus fans in Beaver Stadium reveled as the Hall of Fame coach was honored in a post-game on-field ceremony. Not only had they witnessed win No. 400, but also the greatest Nittany Lion comeback at home under Paterno.
Paterno always concentrated on seeing that his student-athletes attend class, devote the proper time to studies and graduate with a meaningful degree. He often said he measured team success not by athletic prowess but by the number of his players that go on to be productive citizens and make a positive contribution to society.
In an exceptional display of generosity and affection for Penn State, Paterno, his wife, Sue, and their five children announced a contribution of $3.5 million to the University in 1998, bringing Paterno’s lifetime giving total to more than $4 million. The gift was believed to be, according to Penn State Vice President for Development Rod Kirsch, “the most generous ever made by a collegiate coach and his family to a university.”
The Paterno gift endowed faculty positions and scholarships in the College of the Liberal Arts, the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, the University Libraries and supported two building projects — a new interfaith spiritual center and the Penn State All-Sports Museum, both on the University Park campus. The museum opened in 2002 and the spiritual center was dedicated in 2003.
He and Sue were actively involved with the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games, held each June on the University Park campus. In 2008, the Paternos were inducted into the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Hall of Fame.
The Paternos announced a $1 million pledge in 2009 for the Mount Nittany Medical Center. Their gift helped support a three-floor, 42,000-square foot expansion of Centre County’s primary health facility, which was completed in 2010.
In December 2007, Patrick and Candace Malloy honored Paterno’s contributions to the University by committing $5 million to create the Malloy Paterno Head Football Coach Endowment at Penn State.
“All of Penn State has benefited from Joe’s commitment to success with honor,” said Patrick Malloy, a 1965 alumnus of the University. “He is so much more than a coach — he’s an educator. He teaches his players how to win in life as well as in football, and he teaches every Penn State fan how to make the world a better place through integrity, honesty, and excellence. We are also fortunate enough to know Sue Paterno, and we have the deepest admiration for her volunteer and philanthropic leadership at Penn State and beyond.”
The Nittany Lions’ capped 2007 by defeating Texas A&M in the Valero Alamo Bowl in Paterno’s 500th game as head coach.
In January 2011, NCAA President Mark Emmert presented the Gerald R. Ford Award to Paterno at the NCAA Convention. The award honors an individual who has provided significant leadership as an advocate for intercollegiate athletics on a continuous basis throughout his or her career.
In 2007, Paterno was inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. He received the NFF’s Gold Medal in 2006. The American Football Coaches Association presented Paterno with its highest honor in 2002, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award. The award honors those “whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football.”
Paterno has five children – Diana, Mary Kay, David, Jay and Scott – all of whom are Penn State graduates – and 17 grandchildren.
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).
Arrangements are to be announced.