Paterno's diagnosis was revealedr in mid November, shortly after he was dismissed from his duties as coach of the Nittany Lions. Paterno's ouster came in the aftermath of the arrest of Jerry Sandusky, a longtime Paterno lieutenant facing more than 50 counts of sexual abuse against children. Amid evidence that Paterno had been notified of the abuse but had done little beyond his legal obligation to prevent it, the Penn State board of trustees voted to dismiss the longtime coach in November. The scandal reverberated beyond college football, and sullied a reputation that had once seemed unimpeachable — particularly in central Pennsylvania, where Paterno, or "JoePa," was revered.
During his 46 seasons coaching Penn State, Paterno racked up 409 wins -- the the record for a Division I football coach. He guided his teams to national championships in 1982 and 1986.
The Brooklyn native is survived by his wife, Sue, and their five children.
Paterno's son takes to Twitter to refute reports his father died
JOE PATERNO / Associated Press file
The winningest major college football coach of all time, Paterno was diagnosed shortly after Penn State's Board of Trustees ousted him Nov. 9 in the aftermath of the child sex abuse charges against former assistant Jerry Sandusky. Paterno's been getting treatment since, and his health problems were worsened when he broke his pelvis — an injury that first cropped up when he was accidentally hit in preseason practice last year.
"Over the last few days Joe Paterno has experienced further health complications," family spokesman Dan McGinn said in a brief statement Saturday to The Associated Press. "His doctors have now characterized his status as serious.
"His family will have no comment on the situation and asks that their privacy be respected during this difficult time," he said.
Paterno's sons Scott and Jay both took to Twitter Saturday night around 9:30 p.m. to refute reports that their father had died.
Wrote Jay Paterno: "I appreciate the support (and) prayers. Joe is continuing to fight."
The 85-year-old Paterno has been in the hospital since Jan. 13 for observation for what his family had called minor complications from his cancer treatments. Not long before that, he conducted his only interview since losing his job, with The Washington Post. Paterno was described as frail then and wearing a wig. The second half of the two-day interview was conducted by his bedside.
The final days of Paterno's Penn State career were easily the toughest in his 61 years with the university and 46 seasons as head football coach.
Sandusky, a longtime defensive coordinator who was on Paterno's staff in two national title seasons, was arrested Nov. 5 and ultimately charged with sexually abusing a total of 10 boys over 15 years. His arrest sparked outrage not just locally but across the nation and there were widespread calls for Paterno to quit.