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Penn State Coach Joe Paterno Dead at 85

Penn State Coach Joe Paterno Dead at 85 Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

Winningest Penn State coach had lung cancer.

Legendary Penn State head coach Joe Paterno died Sunday at the age of 85 after a battle with lung cancer. His family released a statement Sunday morning: “He died as he lived ... He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been." The longtime Nittany Lions football coach spoke to a reporter for the first time this month since news of the Jerry Sandusky child-sex-abuse scandal rocked Penn State. He was told he had lung cancer just days after he was let go by the university’s board of trustees in November.

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Thousands Attend Paterno Service

Thousands Attend Paterno Service Alex Brandon / AP Photo

On Penn State campus.

Thousands of mourners attended a public memorial service Thursday to say a final farewell to legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who died from lung cancer at the age of 85 on Sunday. The service was held at the school’s basketball arena, and 10,000 free tickets were snapped up within seven minutes of being released. Speeches and videos honored the winningest coach in Division I college football, though his career came to a sudden end in November when he was fired for not turning in assistant coach Jerry Sandusky to the police for alleged child-sex-abuse charges. Paterno was laid to rest Wednesday in a private ceremony.

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Can You Die of a Broken Heart?

Lung cancer may be the official cause of Joe Paterno's death, but the trauma of recent months may have helped speed his demise. Inside the mystery of Broken Heart Syndrome.

Joe Paterno was mere months into his forced retirement after allegations of sexual abuse within the worshipful sports culture of Penn State provoked an explosion as sudden as it was severe. At 85 years old, it left the former coach without the one thing that defined his existence.

Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno, 85, died mere months after his forced retirement. (Rob Carr / Getty Images)

The official cause of death was lung cancer, according to his wife. But his passing this weekend came so soon after the turbulent events that it’s impossible not to consider the connection. Stress exacerbates sickness, causing the immune system to rev up and inflammation to occur, which in turn affects cardiopulmonary health.

The sudden end of his storied career may also have played a role. “No one knows what keeps people alive, but the sense that you can build something in the near to distant future is important. He no longer had that,” says Michael Garfinkle, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.


Sandusky: 'A Sad Day'

Sandusky: 'A Sad Day' Paul Vathis / AP Photo

In statement on Paterno's death.

Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who's accused of child sex abuse in a case that led to the firing of longtime head coach Joe Paterno, released a statement Sunday expressing sympathy for Paterno's death. "This is a sad day!" he wrote. "Our family, Dottie and I would like to convey our deepest sympathy to Sue and her family. Nobody did more for the academic reputation of Penn State than Joe Paterno." Sandusky is awaiting trial on 52 counts of sex abuse of 10 children over 15 years. Paterno, who had been criticized for not turning him in to the police, died Sunday from lung cancer at the age of 85.

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Around Penn State, ‘Joe Pa’ was a hero—even after his role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal tainted his sterling reputation. Jessica Bennett and Jacob Bernstein on the mourning at campus.

He was a legend in tiny State College, Pa.—a larger-than-life figure whose giant bronze statue greeted football fans outside the university stadium. There was a wing of the university named after him; class lectures devoted to him; he was perhaps the only football coach in modern history to also be a tenured professor.

Penn State Paterno Football obit

The Penn State football legend died of complications from lung cancer less than three months after his firing in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. For JoePa, as his fans affectionately called him, it was a swift decline. (FILE / AP Photo)

But on Sunday, Joe Paterno, 85, died of lung cancer just two and a half months after being fired from the university in what was one of the swiftest falls of grace in recent memory. Back in November, a longtime member of his staff, Jerry Sandusky, was indicted on charges of molesting 10 children over a decade and a half. Paterno, who was not charged with any crime, nevertheless was faulted for having been informed early on about Sandusky’s behavior with children and having failed to call the police.

“His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled,” Paterno’s family said in a statement on Sunday. “He died as he lived. 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.”


Penn State to Honor Paterno

Penn State to Honor Paterno Patrick Smith / Getty Images

For contributions to the school.

Penn State University President Rodney Erickson says the school plans to honor legendary former football coach Joe Paterno, who died Sunday morning at the age of 85. In a statement Erickson called Paterno “a great man who made us a greater university,” and said that his “dedication to ensuring his players were successful both on the field and in life is legendary.” It’s not clear if the school is planning an official memorial. Paterno was fired from Penn State in November amid a child-sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

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Penn State Editor Resigns

Penn State Editor Resigns Patrick Smith / Getty Images

After false report of Joe Paterno's death.

The managing editor of the online Penn State student news service Onward State has resigned after erroneously reporting that former football coach Joe Paterno had died on Saturday night. The item was picked up by and other news sites, including, briefly, The Daily Beast. “I never, in a million years, would have thought that Onward State might be cited by the national media,” Devon Edwards’s letter said. “Today, I sincerely wish it never had been.” Edwards did not explain how the error occurred. Paterno was in serious condition in a hospital after being diagnosed with lung cancer, and his son Jay tweeted Saturday night that his father was still “fighting.” Paterno died on Sunday morning.

Read it at Associated Press