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An attorney for Paterno on Thursday called the board’s comments self-serving and unsupported by the facts. Paterno fully reported what he knew to the people responsible for campus investigations, lawyer Wick Sollers said.

“He did what he thought was right with the information he had at the time,” Sollers said.

The university handed the football team to one of Paterno’s assistants, Tom Bradley, who said Paterno “will go down in history as one of the greatest men, who maybe most of you know as a great football coach.”

“As the last 61 years have shown, Joe made an incredible impact,” said the statement from the family. “That impact has been felt and appreciated by our family in the form of thousands of letters and well wishes along with countless acts of kindness from people whose lives he touched. It is evident also in the thousands of successful student athletes who have gone on to multiply that impact as they spread out across the country.”

New Penn State football coach Bill O’Brien, hired earlier this month, offered his condolences.

“The Penn State Football program is one of college football’s iconic programs because it was led by an icon in the coaching profession in Joe Paterno,” O’Brien said in a statement. “There are no words to express my respect for him as a man and as a coach. To be following in his footsteps at Penn State is an honor. Our families, our football program, our university and all of college football have suffered a great loss, and we will be eternally grateful for Coach Paterno’s immeasurable contributions.”

Paterno believed success was not measured entirely on the field. From his idealistic early days, he had implemented what he called a “grand experiment” — to graduate more players while maintaining success on the field.

“He maintained a high standard in a very difficult profession. Joe preached toughness, hard work and clean competition,” Sandusky said in a statement. “Most importantly, he had the courage to practice what he preached.”

Paterno was a frequent speaker on ethics in sports, a conscience for a world often infiltrated by scandal.

The team consistently ranked among the best in the Big Ten for graduating players. As of 2011, it had 49 academic All-Americans, the third-highest among schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision. All but two played under Paterno.

“He teaches us about really just growing up and being a man,” former linebacker Paul Posluszny, now with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, once said. “Besides the football, he’s preparing us to be good men in life.”

Paterno certainly had detractors. One former Penn State professor called his high-minded words on academics a farce, and a former administrator said players often got special treatment. His coaching style often was considered too conservative. Some thought he held on to his job too long, and a move to push him out in 2004 failed.

But the critics were in the minority, and his program was never cited for major NCAA violations. The child sex abuse scandal, however, did prompt separate inquiries by the U.S. Department of Education and the NCAA into the school’s handling.

Paterno played quarterback and defensive back for Brown University and set a defensive record with 14 career interceptions, a distinction he still boasted about to his teams in his 80s. He graduated in 1950 with plans to go to law school. He said his father hoped he would someday be president.

But when Paterno was 23, a former coach at Brown was moving to Penn State to become the head coach and persuaded Paterno to come with him as an assistant.

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