Joe Paterno (Joseph Vincent Paterno) (pətûr´nō), 1926–2012, American football coach, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. A former quarterback at Brown Univ., he joined (1950) the coaching staff at Pennsylvania State Univ. and became (1966) the head coach; his five undefeated seasons and 23 top-ten finishes included two national championships (1982, 1986). In 2001 he surpassed Bear Bryant's record for most games won, placing Paterno first among Division I-A coaches in college football history, and in 2011 he surpassed Eddie Robinson's Division I record for most wins.
Widely admired for his loyalty to Penn State, his emphasis on education as well as on sport, and for inculcating a strict moral code of conduct in his players, Paterno was fired in 2011 after public revelations concerning sexual abuse of young boys by a former football coach on his Penn State staff. After the release (2012) of former FBI director Louis I. Freeh's findings that Paterno had known of the abuse and participated in a 14-year coverup, the NCAA sanctioned Penn State, vacating its football victories from 1998 to 2011 and voiding Paterno's records. A 2013 report by former U.S. attorney general Richard Thornburgh, who had been hired by the Paterno family, challenged the conclusions made by Freeh, who had been hired by Penn State.
See biography by J. Posnanski (2012).