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Longtime Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno Dies At Age 85

After a brief battle with lung cancer, longtime Penn State Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno passed away early Sunday at the age of 85 in State College, Pennsylvania.

State College, PA (Sports Network) - Joe Paterno, the legendary coach of Penn State who was ousted from his job in November, has succumbed to lung cancer. He was 85.

The family announced his death Sunday morning. Paterno died at State College's Mount Nittany Medical Center, where he had been undergoing treatment.

Reports circulated earlier Saturday, that Paterno was gravely ill. A family spokesman said in a statement that doctors had characterized his condition as "serious."

The winningest coach in major college football history was described in a recent interview as being wheelchair-bound and wearing a wig as a result of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Several Pennsylvania outlets, including The Citizens' Voice newspaper, reported earlier Saturday that friends and family were being called to the hospital.

Paterno, who logged a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision record 409 victories, was at the helm of the Nittany Lions for 46 years (1966-2011). Five years ago, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

He was fired by trustees in November in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child- sex abuse case.

The end for Paterno at Penn State was connected to Sandusky's legal trouble. Sandusky, an assistant coach at Penn State from 1969-99, is faced with more than 50 counts of charges related to sexually abusing young boys.

In an interview published on January 14 in the Washington Post, Paterno said he didn't know how to handle hearing a report from an assistant who said he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in the university showers.

"In hindsight," Paterno told the newspaper, "I wish I had done more."

Paterno said he was "afraid" to jeopardize university procedure after assistant coach Mike McQueary knocked on his door on a Saturday morning, sat at his kitchen table and described what he had seen.

McQueary left out graphic details, Paterno said. But the legendary Nittany Lions coach wasn't sure he would have been able to comprehend the details anyway. And he was unsure of how to handle the information he had.

"So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did," Paterno said. "It didn't work out that way."

Born December 21, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York, Paterno went on to play football at Brown from 1946-49 before graduating a year later. His first coaching job was as an assistant at Penn State in 1950 under Rip Engle. After Engle, who was Paterno's coach at Brown, retired following the 1965 season, the job was Paterno's.

With his iconic thick glasses on the sidelines, Paterno coached five undefeated teams that won major bowl contests and ended his career with a 24-12-1 mark in bowl games, among his 409-136-3 overall mark. His 1982 and '86 teams were national champions.

In 2007, he passed Amos Alonzo Stagg's major college record of 41 years coaching at one school.

Affectionately called "JoePa", Paterno was a five-time national coach of the year. He had a 31-game unbeaten streak early in his tenure with the Nittany Lions. In 2001, Paterno passed Paul "Bear" Bryant as college football's all- time winningest coach with his 324th victory.

An honorary statue of Paterno stands in front of Penn State's Beaver Stadium, a facility that was expanded six times during his tenure to a current capacity of more than 106,000 fans.

Joe and Sue Paterno have five children, all of whom are Penn State graduates, and 17 grandchildren.