Joseph Vincent "Joe" Paterno (pronounced /pəˈtɜrnoʊ/; December 21, 1926 – January 22, 2012) was an American college football coach who was the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions for nearly 46 years, from 1966 through 2011. Paterno, nicknamed "JoePa", holds the record for the most victories by an NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football coach with 409 and is the only FBS coach to reach 400 victories. He coached five undefeated teams that won major bowl games and, in 2007, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach.
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. Sixteen years later, in 1966, Paterno was named as Engle's successor. Before long, he had coached the team to two undefeated regular seasons in 1968 and 1969. He went on to win two national championships—in 1982 and again in 1986. In all, he led the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl appearances with 24 wins all while turning down offers to coach NFL teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots. Paterno was named the winningest coach in Division I history in late 2011. In November, his long-time assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested and charged with child sexual abuse; in the wake of perceived inaction in dealing with the allegations, Paterno was fired.
During his 61 years at Penn State, Paterno became a beloved figure in the college community. He was well known for his distinct game-day image, particularly his thick, square glasses. The emphasis that he placed on ethics and moral conduct and his philosophy on football, to meld athletics and academics, were signatures of his coaching style. He and his wife, Sue, donated more than $4 million to Penn State, and funded the school's library that bears their names. Paterno died of complications from lung cancer on January 22, 2012.