Joe Paterno Dies, but the Legend Lives

COMMENTARY | Joe Paterno died Sunday at the age of 85. The college football legend of Joe Paterno lives on. Reuters reports the mourning for the coach at Penn State included a candlelight vigil Sunday night and a growing memorial with cards and other memorabilia at the bronze statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium.

Paterno served as an assistant football coach at Penn State under Rip Engle for 15 years. When Engle retired, he began a career that spanned six decades. From 1966 to November 2011, he coached the Nittany Lions for 41 years. His accomplishments include 409 victories, 37 bowl appearances, 24 bowl victories, five unbeaten seasons, five times college football coach of the year and two national championships.

The Los Angeles Times, in Paterno's obituary, detailed those feats as well as his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame and the singular distinction of having won all four of the major college football bowl games: Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar.

Paterno's career ended in November when he was fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees during the child sex scandal that erupted around the football program. Shortly after, Paterno was revealed to have lung cancer. That disease led to his death.

Paterno is one of a select few men who defined college sports through their coaching skills.

Knute Rockne created college football as we know it today. He coached Notre Dame's Fighting Irish for 18 years until his career was cut short by a plane crash. During his tenure, his teams won six national championships and had five undefeated seasons. Rockne perfected the forward pass. He built a national schedule for his teams, leaving a legacy of Notre Dame fans from coast to coast that remains today.

Adolph Rupp coached his University of Kentucky basketball team to 876 wins over 41 years. That remarkable era includes four national championships. Rupp's retirement from coaching was also forced, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

College basketball was also the passion of the inventor of the sport, James Naismith. As an instructor at a local YMCA, he was asked by a Springfield, Mass., school to provide a sport that could be played indoors during the winter. That sport was basketball. He coached basketball at the University of Kansas from 1898 to 1907. He served as athletic director and taught physical education at the school for much of the next three decades.