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Paterno's death spurs admiration, anger

NEED TO KNOW
  • College, sports fans react to passing of iconic Penn State coach
  • Funeral arrangements expected to be announced Monday

One day after the death of Joe Paterno, the people who loved and admired him are mourning in a way as complex as the legendary Penn State coach's legacy.

Family, college students, public figures and fellow coaches expressed admiration for the man known as “JoePa.” In State College, the mourning revived a backlash against university officials who decided to fire the only football coach most people in the community had ever known.

Son Jay Paterno tweeted Monday morning a picture of a dark sky illuminated by a distant glow along with this:

Early morning I walked my dog & saw the glow of the stadium. I will never lose Joe's light in my life.

The former head of Penn State's football program died at 9:25 a.m. Sunday, surrounded by his family, State College's Mount Nittany Medical Center said in a statement. Paterno had been battling lung cancer and recently broken his pelvis.

"He died as he lived," the family statement said. "He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been."

Read more: Joe Paterno dead at 85

Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said, "Joe Paterno gave his life to college football. He gave his life to the players and college football. Not just at Penn State, but when I was the head coach at Michigan State, we had a player who could get a sixth year because of an injury, and Joe was the head of the committee. He got it done for the player, and that player actually ran a touchdown against them that could have cost them the game later that season.”

Paterno's 46-year tenure at Penn State is legendary. Under his leadership, the Nittany Lions won two national championships and went undefeated five times. With him at the helm, the school earned the moniker of “Linebacker U” for its propensity to turn out NFL prospects as solid as they were ferocious on the field.

Just three months ago it seemed the PSU sidelines would be Paterno's own Mount Rushmore; a position of honor set in stone, chiseled in the side like an immovable object. In October, he passed iconic Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson as the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history with 409 career victories.

But a week later, horrific allegations would prove to be an unstoppable force.

Jerry Sandusky, who served as Paterno's assistant for 30 years, was charged with crimes of sexual abuse involving young boys. The revelation that Paterno was told about a 2002 incident involving Sandusky and a 10-year-old boy in a university shower, and by his own admission, didn't do enough in response, brought down the iconic coach. He lost his job, along with then-Athletic Director Tim Curley and then-Vice President Gary Schultz.

On Sunday,  the men involved in the scandal reflected on Paterno’s life.

"This is a sad day," Sandusky said in a statement. "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. He maintained a high standard in a very difficult profession. Joe preached toughness, hard work and clean competition. Most importantly, he had the courage to practice what he preached. Nobody will be able to take away the memories we all shared of a great man, his family, and all the wonderful people who were a part of his life."

Curley said: "Words cannot express the sorrow my family and I feel. Joe has been an integral part of my life for more than 35 years. Joe coached me, mentored me, taught me what it meant to compete with integrity and honor, and above all demonstrated with each day that he lived, the power of humility.”

Schultz said, “I had the sincere honor and distinct pleasure to work with Joe for many, many years at Penn State. No one loved Penn State more than Joe. We will all miss him."

But in the town of State College, amid the pain, there was also anger.

spelczecher wrote in a comment on Pennlive:

To the University Board of Trustees: You wanted Paterno out of the way badly enough to fire him over the phone instead of letting him leave with some dignity. Well, he’s out of the way now. Mission accomplished. Live with that, why don’t you.

sechogsfan posted on Twitter:

I think they should charge the PSU board with Joe Paterno’s death. It’s your fault

Funeral arrangements were expected to be announced Monday, according to the Patriot-News.

The Patriot News also reports that the Paterno family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania or The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.

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