State College, Pa. (AP) - Joe Paterno, the longtime Penn State coach who won more games than anyone in major college football, but was fired amid a child sex abuse scandal that scarred his reputation for winning with integrity, died Sunday. He was 85.
His family released a statement Sunday morning to announce his death.
"He died as he lived," the 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. 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."
Paterno built his program on the credo "Success with Honor," and he found both. The man known as "JoePa" won 409 games and took the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games and two national championships. More than 250 of the players he coached went on to the NFL.
"He will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said after his former team, the Florida Gators, beat Penn State 37-24 in the 2011 Outback Bowl.
Paterno's son Scott said on Nov. 18 that his father was being treated for lung cancer. The cancer was diagnosed during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness. A few weeks after that revelation, Paterno also broke his pelvis after a fall, but did not need surgery.
Paterno had been in the hospital since Jan. 13 for observation for what his family had called minor complications from his cancer treatments.
Not long before that, he conducted his only interview since losing his job, with The Washington Post.
The final days of Paterno's Penn State career were easily the toughest in his 61 years with the university and 46 seasons as head football coach.
In early November, Paterno was engulfed by a scandal and forced from his job, because he failed to go to the police in 2002 when told a young boy was molested inside the football complex.
"I didn't know which way to go ... and rather than get in there and make a mistake," he said in the Post interview.