Joe Paterno: Sports Fans Mourn Loss of Former Penn State Coach

Cliff PotterCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2012

Only last year, Joe Paterno became the winningest coach in Division One football.
Only last year, Joe Paterno became the winningest coach in Division One football.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Football icon Joe Paterno, who was head coach of Penn State's football team for thirty-five years, died this morning (via Philadelphia Inquirer). His death comes shortly after the tragedy of his departure last November and reminds us of the wonder of his drive.

He was clear into his 80s as he faced a request to step down.

Paterno provided more than $4 million to Penn State. He shared in the thrills of Penn State wins and continued excellence in an unblemished recruiting record in this age of continual troubles. He was also a guidepost for seniors—they looked at him and realized that their lives do not end at 60 or even 70. They, like him, can continue to contribute to society and the world well into their 80s.

Sadness grips those who spent much of their lives watching Penn State grapple with Alabama and Georgia in national championship games. They watched Penn State have four of five losing seasons in the past 10 years yet come back and win. They watched a guy with glasses so thick his eyes popped out of his face run a football program among the most elite in all of college football. 

He taught discipline, respect and love in ways that increase our understanding of what it means to love people, an area and an institution.

As Matt Millen said today, just like so many great football coaches, Paterno's assistance has helped hundreds of men move forward in their lives and make a difference.

We need to remember his belief in the concept of family with whom he shared his life.

There are many things we do not know about Paterno, and will not know about him. Most do not realize he graduated from Brown University, that his family was greatly saddened to find he was going to take a $3,500 a year job as an assistant football coach at Penn State instead of going to law school or the millions he gave to Penn State—his only love apart from his family.

A great man, whose firing caused so many concerns among those who knew him.

Our heart goes out to him. Best wishes, Joe. We know where you are now.