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Joe Paterno 'sobbed uncontrollably' after firing, biography says

August 15, 2012|By Chuck Schilken
  • Late Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno cried uncontrollably after being fired by Penn State, a new biography reveals.
Late Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno cried uncontrollably after being… (Pat Little / Associated…)

Joe Paterno cried the day after a late-night phone call by the Penn State board of trustees ended his 46-year career as the Nittany Lions' head coach.

"My name," Paterno told his son Jay. "I have spent my whole life trying to make that name mean something. And now it's gone."

Paterno cried continually that day. Sometimes the late coach "sobbed uncontrollably," according to the upcoming biography, "Paterno," by Joe Posnanski. GQ magazine features excerpts in its September issue.

Posnanski was granted access to Paterno and his inner circle in the summer of 2011 to work on his biography during the football season. Posnanski probably had no idea what he was about to witness firsthand, as Paterno's legacy started falling apart as the child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky unfolded.

In his book, Posnanski tells about the day after Paterno's late-night firing:

"On Thursday, Paterno met with his coaches at his house. He sobbed uncontrollably. This was his bad day. Later, one of his former captains, Brandon Short, stopped by the house. When Brandon asked, 'How are you doing, coach?' Paterno answered, 'I'm OK,' but the last syllable was shaky, muffled by crying, and then he broke down and said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do with myself.' Nobody knew how to handle such emotion. Joe had always seemed invulnerable. On Thursday, though, he cried continually."

The writer also tells of how public relations specialist Dan McGinn tried to help Paterno, still the Nittany Lions coach at the time, through the scandal:

"This is when McGinn learned just how far Paterno's influence and reputation had fallen. He asked [family adviser Guido] D'Elia for the name of one person on the Penn State board of trustees, just one, whom they could reach out to, to negotiate a gracious ending. D'Elia shook his head.

'One person on the board, that's all we need,' McGinn said.

D'Elia shook his head again. 'It began in 2004,' he whispered, referring to an old clash Paterno had with [university president Graham] Spanier. 'The board started to turn. We don't have anybody on the board now.'

Should be a compelling read when it comes out Tuesday.

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