Joe Paterno passed away this Sunday after a two month battle with lung cancer at the age of 85. Paterno won more games the highest level of College Football than any other coach in history, but his seemingly never ending tenure with Penn State was over in Mid-November after the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.
Instead of mentioning his name only related to greatness – His 409 wins since 1966 with the Nittany Lions. His 24 bowl wins, including the 2005 Orange Bowl against Bobby Bowden. His two national titles with the school in 1982 and 1986 and his five undefeated seasons. Paterno’s recent months were full of negativity, despite his godlike status among many of the Penn State students and faithful.
And Paterno, despite all of his achievements, as a head coach for 46 years and building, turning Penn State into a nationally prominent program, will have a huge black mark on his career track due to looking the other way when informed of Jerry Sandusky’s actions with young boys.
Paterno spoke only once after being fired by the university, a two day interview held with the Wasington Post. Paterno spoke in almost a whisper, described as frail, and the second day was mostly spent with him in bed.
Paterno will always be related to “success with honor”. To the 250+ NFL players that played under him during their college days, and will be mentioned among the greatest head coaches of all time, maybe THE greatest as many consider him. Not for his coaching brilliance, but for his lifework at one school.
But no matter how much you want to distinguish him and showcase all of his achievements with the Big Ten school, Paterno’s legacy is severely tainted by his inaction, and failure to report on Sandusky. It’s a sad that, with a giant of the game, with his longevity at the position defying logic, departing and dying. But it’s sadder that we can’t remember him only for for was good.