Joseph Vincent “Joe” Paterno December 21, 1926�� January 22, 2012), sometimes referred to as “JoePa,” was an American college football coach who was the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions from 1966 to 2011.
Paterno was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended Brown University, where he played football both as the quarterback and a cornerback. Originally planning to be a lawyer, he instead signed on as an assistant football coach at Penn State in 1950, persuaded by his college coach Rip Engle who had taken over as Penn State’s head coach. In 1966, Paterno was named as Engle’s successor. He soon coached the team to two undefeated regular seasons in 1968 and 1969. The team won two national championships�in 1982 and 1986. Paterno coached five undefeated teams that won major bowl games and, in 2007, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach. In all, he led the Nittany Lions to 409 victories, 37 bowl appearances with 24 wins while turning down offers to coach NFL teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots.
Paterno was a long-time advocate for some type of college football playoff system. The question was posed to him frequently over the years, as only one of his five undefeated teams was voted national champion.[
Paterno believed that scholarship college athletes should receive a modest stipend, so that they have some spending money. As justification, Paterno pointed out that many scholarship athletes came from poor families and that other students had time to hold down a part-time job, whereas busy practice and conditioning schedules prevented college athletes from working during the school year.
Paterno preferred to not play true freshmen. Later in his career, Paterno played true freshmen so as not to be at a competitive disadvantage. Some Penn State recruits, like recruits at many other schools, now graduate from high school a semester early so that they can enroll in college during the spring semester and participate in spring practice. Several team members from the recruiting class of 2005, including Justin King, Anthony Scirrotto, and Derrick Williams, received considerable playing time as true freshmen during the 2005�2006 season
In 2010, Paterno and former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka suggested that concussions and other injuries in the NFL and college football might be reduced if face masks were done away with.
Penn State’s football players were twice recognized for outstanding academic performance by the New America Foundation’s Academic Bowl Championship Series while under the leadership of Paterno. The team was ranked number one out of the top 25 ranked BCS teams in 2009 and 2011. The criteria in the rankings include the graduation rate of the team as compared to the rest of university, the difference between the graduation rate of African-American players and the rest of the squad as well as the same statistics for the rest of the students at Penn State, and the graduation rate differences between the African American players and students