Though exact totals don't exist, it's widely believed he collected hundreds of millions in contributions for the university. He and his wife donated nearly $5 million of their own money, most notably to update the campus library that now bears their names.
Time to step aside?
Up until his final months, the worst stretch of Mr. Paterno's career came in the early 2000s. During that time, dozens of his Nittany Lions were arrested for fighting, sexual assaults, and drinking offenses on and off campus. On the field, his teams endured unprecedented struggles.
The Nittany Lions went 26-33 from 2000 to 2004 as calls mounted for the aging coach to step aside. But whenever the outrage intensified, it seemed, Mr. Paterno and Penn State would agree to a contract extension.
The subject of how much coaching Mr. Paterno actually did in those and later years remained a contentious one. Some said he'd delegated so many responsibilities that he essentially was just a figurehead. But others insisted the old coach still studied as much game film as anyone and was instrumental in each week's game plan.
All agreed, though, that in his last decade, Mr. Paterno, who always had been a dogged and persuasive recruiter, once able to convince mothers throughout the East to entrust their sons to him, did not do nearly so much bird-dogging.
Notably, after a 2004 season when Penn State went 4-9 and struggled to score points, university president Graham B. Spanier, Curley, and trustees chairman Steve Garban visited Mr. Paterno at home and attempted to have him ensure an orderly transition. They wanted the old coach to name his replacement early in 2005, coach that fall, and then retire at season's end.
Mr. Paterno refused.
"If you think that I'm going to back out of it because I'm intimidated, you're wrong," he said at the time. "If you think I am going to stay when I think I am not doing a good job, you are wrong. Those things have to develop and have to evolve. Right now, I think we can get this thing done and do a good job."
And he was right. If not for a last-second loss at Michigan, his 2005 team would have gone unbeaten. As it was, they went 11-1, tied for the Big Ten title, and defeated Florida State in overtime at the Orange Bowl.
Penn State erected a statue of Mr. Paterno outside Beaver Stadium, a sculpture that seemed to symbolize the immovable force he had become. No single individual was powerful enough to budge him.
Inevitably, trouble began to catch up with Mr. Paterno and his program. In 2008, ESPN calculated that since 2002, 46 Penn State players had faced 163 criminal charges. TV cameras caught the old coach cursing angrily at Rutgers' coach Doug Graber following a 1995 game.
Mr. Paterno's candor and Depression-era outlook also occasionally got him into hot water.
When wideout Tony Johnson was arrested for drunk driving in 2003, Mr. Paterno cautioned the media not to "blow it out of proportion. . . . He didn't do anything to anybody." Incensed Mothers Against Drunk Driving officials blasted his comments.
Then, before the 2006 Orange Bowl, he seemed to excuse a Florida State player who had been accused of rape in remarks that invited an angry response from women's organizations nationwide.
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