American Football Wiki
Joe Paterno
File:Joe Paterno - Penn State - Outback Bowl pep rally 123110 cropped.jpg
Joe Paterno at a 2010 rally
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born December 21, 1926
Place of birth Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died January 22, 2012(2012-01-22) (aged 85)
Place of death State College, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Playing career
1946–1949 Brown
Position(s) Quarterback, Cornerback
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Penn State (assistant)
Penn State
Head coaching record
Overall 409–136–3
Bowls 24–12–1
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
2 National (1982, 1986)
3 Big Ten (1994, 2005, 2008)
Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (1986)
5x AFCA COY (1968, 1978, 1982, 1986, 2005)
3x Walter Camp COY (1972, 1994, 2005)
3x Eddie Robinson COY (1978, 1982, 1986)
2x Bobby Dodd COY (1981, 2005)
Paul "Bear" Bryant Award (1986)
3x George Munger Award (1990, 1994, 2005)
Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (2002)
The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award (2005)
Sporting News College Football COY (2005)
3x Big Ten Coach of the Year (1994, 2005, 2008)
Most Division I-A/FBS wins (409)
Most bowl wins (24)
Career player statistics (if any)'
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2007 (profile)

Joseph Vincent "Joe" Paterno (December 21 1929 - January 22, 2012) was the former head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions. Joe played college football for the Brown Bears of the Ivy League. He was then an assistant for Penn State for 15 years from 1950-1965. Starting in 1965, Paterno became the head coach of the Nittany Lions. In his time as head coach he won 3 Big Ten Championships and 2 National Championships. In 2011, he became entangled in a controversial child molestation which implicated former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. He was reported to have known of the alleged molestations, and reportedly went as far as notifying his immediate supervisor, Tim Curley, the Penn State Athletic Director, as is the procedure in such cases, but not to have alerted the authorities. On November 9th, 2011, Paterno stated that he would retire at the end of the season in light of the allegations. Later that evening the Board of Trustees at Penn State decided to relieve him of his duties immediately instead. On January 22nd, 2012, Paterno died, succumbing after a 2 month battle with lung cancer.

for nearly 46 years, from 1966 through 2011.[1] At the time of his death he held the record for the most victories by an NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football coach with 409 and was the only FBS coach to reach 400 victories.[2] He coached five undefeated teams that won major bowl games and, in 2007, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach. Despite his achievements as a coach, Paterno's career ended abruptly in 2011 after he was fired for his "failure of leadership" in the child sex abuse scandal surrounding his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.[3]

Paterno was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended Brown University, where he played football both as the quarterback and a cornerback. Originally planning to be a lawyer, he instead signed on as an assistant football coach at Penn State in 1950, persuaded by his college coach Rip Engle who had taken over as Penn State's head coach. Sixteen years later, in 1966, Paterno was named as Engle's successor. Before long, he had coached the team to two undefeated regular seasons in 1968 and 1969. He went on to win two national championships—in 1982 and again in 1986. In all, he led the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl appearances with 24 wins all while turning down offers to coach NFL teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots. Paterno was named the winningest coach in Division I history in late 2011.

During his 61 years at Penn State, Paterno became a beloved figure in the college community. He was well known for his distinct game-day image, particularly his thick, square glasses. The emphasis that he placed on ethics and moral conduct and his philosophy on football, to meld athletics and academics, were signatures of his coaching style. He and his wife, Sue, donated more than $4 million to Penn State, and funded the school's library that bears their names. Paterno died of complications from lung cancer on January 22, 2012.

Early life

Paterno was born December 21, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York, and throughout his life he spoke with a marked Brooklyn accent. His family is of Italian ancestry. In 1944, Paterno graduated from the defunct Brooklyn Preparatory School. Six weeks later he was drafted into the Army. Paterno spent a year in the service and spent time in Korea before being discharged in time to start the 1946 school year at Brown University where his tuition was paid for by Busy Arnold.[4][5]

He was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Upsilon chapter).[6] He played quarterback and cornerback and shares the career record for interceptions with Greg Parker at 14.[7] Paterno graduated with the Brown University Class of 1950. Although his father asked, "For God's sake, what did you go to college for?" after hearing of his career choice,[8] Paterno joined his college coach Rip Engle as an assistant coach at Penn State in 1950; Engle had coached five seasons, 1944–1949, at Brown. Engle announced his retirement in February 1966, and Paterno was named his successor.

Tenure as head coach

Paterno's abbreviated 2011 season was his 62nd on the Penn State coaching staff, which gave him the record for most seasons for any football coach at any university. The 2009 season was Paterno's 44th as head coach of the Nittany Lions, passing Amos Alonzo Stagg for the most years as head coach at a single institution in Division I.[9]

Paterno was well-known for his gameday image—thick glasses, rolled-up pants (by his admission, to save on cleaning bills), white socks and Brooklyn-tinged speech.[10] Reflecting the growth in Penn State's stature during his tenure, Beaver Stadium was expanded six times during his tenure, more than doubling in size in the process (from 46,284 in 1966 to 106,572 in 2001).

The Pittsburgh Steelers offered their head coach position to Paterno in 1969, an offer he considered seriously. The Steelers hired Chuck Noll, who won four Super Bowls in his first 11 years, and coached for an additional twelve seasons.

File:Paterno and hardin.jpg

Joe Paterno and Temple Coach Wayne Hardin in 1988

The New York Giants reportedly offered Paterno their head coaching spot numerous times during the team's struggles during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Michigan Athletic Director Don Canham contacted Paterno in 1969 to see if Paterno (whom Canham respected and knew personally) would accept the vacant Michigan job. Paterno turned down the offer and Michigan hired Bo Schembechler. In 1972, Paterno was offered the head coaching position by the New England Patriots. He accepted their offer, but only three weeks later decided to back out of it. The Patriots hired Chuck Fairbanks of Oklahoma instead.

In 1995, Paterno was forced to apologize for a profanity-laced tirade directed at Rutgers then-head coach Doug Graber at the conclusion of a nationally televised game.[11] He was also accused of "making light of sexual assault" in 2006 by the National Organization for Women which called for his resignation, though Penn State later categorized this incident as being "taken out of context" and never seriously considered asking for Paterno's resignation. [12] Paterno also was involved in a road rage incident in 2007.[13]

After five years of court battles, the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System (SERS) revealed Paterno's salary in November 2007: $512,664. He was paid $490,638 in 2006.[14] The figure was not inclusive of other compensation, such as money from television and apparel contracts as well as other bonuses that Paterno and other football bowl subdivision coaches earned, said Robert Gentzel, SERS communications director. The release of these amounts can only come at the university's approval, which Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said will not happen. "I'm paid well, I'm not overpaid," Paterno said during an interview with reporters Wednesday before the salary disclosure. "I got all the money I need."

In 2008, due to a litany of football players' off-the-field legal problems, including 46 Penn State football players having faced 163 criminal charges according to an ESPN analysis of Pennsylvania court records and reports dating to 2002,[15] ESPN questioned Joe Paterno's and the university's control over the Penn State football program by producing and airing an ESPN's Outside the Lines feature covering the subject.[16] Paterno was criticized for his response dismissing the allegations as a "witch hunt", and chiding reporters for asking about problems.[17]

On November 6, 2010, Paterno recorded his 400th career victory with a 35–21 victory over Northwestern. Facing a 21–0 deficit, Penn State scored 35 unanswered points, tying Paterno's largest comeback victory as a coach.

On October 29, 2011, Paterno recorded his 409th career victory with a 10–7 victory over Illinois. Facing a 7–3 deficit, Penn State drove 86 yards on their final drive to score a touchdown. A missed 42-yard field goal by Illinois which would have sent the game to overtime secured Paterno's 409th victory. With this victory, Paterno passed Eddie Robinson to become the winningest head coach in Division I college football. At the time, he trailed the leader, the still-active John Gagliardi of Division III Saint John's University (Minnesota), by 73 wins.

Bowls and championships

File:Joe Paterno runs out with team crop.jpg

Paterno runs out with his team before the start of a game, September 2007

Paterno held more bowl victories (24) than any coach in history. He also topped the list of bowl appearances with 37.[18] He had a bowl record of 24 wins, 12 losses, and 1 tie following a defeat in the 2011 Outback Bowl. Paterno was the only coach with the distinction of having won each of the four major bowls—Rose, Orange, Fiesta, and Sugar—as well as the Cotton Bowl Classic, at least once. Under Paterno, Penn State won at least three bowl games each decade since 1970.

Paterno led Penn State to two national championships (1982 and 1986) and five undefeated, untied seasons (1968, 1969, 1973, 1986, and 1994). Four of his unbeaten teams (1968, 1969, 1973, and 1994) won major bowl games and were not awarded a national championship.

Penn State under Paterno won the Orange Bowl (1968, 1969, 1973, and 2005), the Cotton Bowl Classic (1972 and 1974), the Fiesta Bowl (1977, 1980, 1981, 1986, 1991, and 1996), the Liberty Bowl (1979), the Sugar Bowl (1982), the Aloha Bowl (1983), the Holiday Bowl (1989), the Citrus Bowl (1993 and 2010), the Rose Bowl (1994), the Outback Bowl (1995, 1998, 2006) and the Alamo Bowl (1999 and 2007).

After Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference in 1993, the Nittany Lions under Paterno won the Big Ten championship three times (1994, 2005, and 2008). Paterno had 29 finishes in the Top 10 national rankings.

Awards and honors

Following the 1986 championship season, Paterno was the first college football coach named "Sportsman of the Year" by Sports Illustrated magazine. In 2005, following an 11–1 comeback season in which the Lions won a share of the Big Ten title and a BCS berth, Paterno was named the 2005 AP Coach of the Year, and the 2005 Walter Camp Coach of the Year.

File:Paterno memorial.jpg

Honorary statue of Paterno in front of Penn State's Beaver Stadium

  • Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year – 1986
  • Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award (United States Sports Academy (USSA)) – 1989, 2001[19]
  • Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (AFCA) – 2002
  • AFCA Coach of the Year – 1968, 1978, 1982, 1986, 2005
  • Associated Press College Football Coach of the Year Award – 2005
  • Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award – 1981, 2005
  • Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year – 1978, 1982, 1986
  • George Munger Award (Div. I Coach of the Year) – 1990, 1994, 2005
  • Paul "Bear" Bryant Award – 1986
  • Sporting News College Football Coach of the Year – 2005
  • The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award – 2005
  • Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award – 1972, 1994, 2005
  • Dave McClain Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year – 1994, 2005, 2008
  • NCAA Gerald R. Ford Award – 2011[20]


  1. Layden, Tim (January 30, 2012). Joe Paterno 1926—2012: He was the winningest coach in major college football, an advocate for blending sports and academics to create the true student-athlete, and an iconic American sports figure—until an error in judgment clouded his legacy. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved on 2012-03-17.
  2. Wogenrich, Mark. "Penn State rallies to win No. 400 for Paterno", The Morning Call, November 6, 2010. Retrieved on November 6, 2010. 
  3. Michael Sanserino. "Paterno and Spanier both out at Penn State", November 9, 2011. Retrieved on November 19, 2011. 
  4. Paterno by the Book,Joe Paterno with Berndard Absell (1989). . Random House. ISBN .
  5. Doxsie, Don (September 25, 2009). How Well Do You Know JoePa?. Waterloo Daily Courier. Archived from the original on November 9, 2011. Retrieved on 2010-10-03.
  6. Template:Cite press release
  7. 2005 Brown University Football Media Guide (PDF). Brown University Sports Information Department (2005). Retrieved on 2006-12-28.
  8. Lopresti, Mike. "Paterno's run at Penn State is one long journey", December 17, 2008. Retrieved on 2010-09-04. 
  9. Joe Paterno
  10. Maisel, Ivan. Joe Paterno's Penn State legacy. ESPN, 2011-11-09.
  11. "Paterno Offers Apology", The New York Times, September 27, 1995. 
  12. "Paterno says words 'taken out of context'", NBC Sports, January 11, 2006. Retrieved on 2010-06-25. 
  13. Paterno acknowledges part in incident; cops find no violation. ESPN (October 12, 2007). Retrieved on 2010-06-25.
  14. "Paterno's salary released to public", ESPN, May 29, 2009. Retrieved on 2011-01-01. 
  15. Lavigne, Paula. "Has Penn State's on-field progress led to off-field problems?", ESPN, July 27, 2008. Retrieved on 2011-11-06. 
  16. Lavign, Paula. "Has Penn State's on-field progress led to off-field problems?", ESPN, July 27, 2008. Retrieved on 2010-06-25. 
  17. Giger, Cory. "JoePa, PSU exposed by ESPN", July 28, 2008. Retrieved on 2011-11-06. 
  18. "Paterno says he has no plans to leave Penn State", ESPN, December 4, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-04-05. 
  19. Donovan Presented With United States Sports Academy Coaching Award. (2007-07-17). Retrieved on 2011-01-02.
  20. Porter, Kristen Leigh. "Paterno honored with Ford Award", NCAA, February 14, 2011. Retrieved on 2011-11-09.