He would remark at a 1973 commencement address, "Money alone will not make you happy. Success without honor is an unseasoned dish."
Paterno's frustration continued in 1973 when his 12-0 team ended up fifth in both major polls, the Associated Press and UPI. He bought his players championship rings and continued to press for a playoff.
His quest for a national title was finally realized in the 1982 season when a Penn State win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl pushed the Nittany Lions to No. 1. Paterno claimed his second national title four years later after a win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.
In 1993, after more than 100 years as an independent, Penn State became the 11th member of the Big Ten Conference.
In 1994, Penn State capped a 12-0 season with a Rose Bowl win over Oregon, but the Nittany Lions ended up No. 2 behind Nebraska in both the Associated Press and USA Today/CNN polls.
Competing in the Big Ten would become increasingly difficult.
Penn State endured four losing seasons in a five-year span beginning in 2000, prompting calls by some for Paterno to retire. There were websites devoted to his departure, but Paterno vowed to coach as long as his health allowed.
Paterno exacted revenge on detractors when his 2005 team finished 11-1 and defeated Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
His survivors include his wife, Sue, whom he married in 1962, and children Diana, Mary, David, Jay and Scott — all Penn State graduates — and 17 grandchildren.