Joe Paterno's family and friends gather at hospital
Joe Paterno fought for his life through the night at a hospital in State College, Pa., as family and friends gathered at his bedside and others held a vigil by his statue near the Penn State football stadium, where he guided the Nittany Lions to national prominence.
After his family denied reports Saturday evening that the 85-year-old former Penn State coach had died, reports surfaced that he was on a respirator and that his family was trying to decide whether he should be removed from it.
Paterno, who became the winningest major-college football coach with his 409th victory on Oct. 29 but was fired less than two weeks later in the wake of a child sex abuse scandal involving one of his former assistants, has been hospitalized since Jan. 13 for treatment of complications from lung cancer treatments.
On Saturday afternoon, the family released a statement about his deteriorating condition.
“Over the last few days Joe Paterno has experienced further health complications,” spokesman Dan McGinn said in a brief statement to the Associated Press. “His doctors have now characterized his status as serious."
Approximately 200 students held a somber vigil at a statue of Paterno, the Associated Press reported. There was no chanting or shouting as many people held candles in silence.
Paterno's son Jay tweeted after driving by the vigil: "Drove by students at the Joe statue [on Penn State’s campus]. Just told my Dad about all the love & support -- inspiring him."
--Mike James and Dan Loumena
Photo: Students hold a vigil at a statue of Joe Paterno outside of Beaver Stadium on the Penn State campus. Credit: Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press