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‘Further health complications’ leave Joe Paterno hospitalized in serious condition

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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Joe Paterno is in "serious" condition, according to a statement released by a family spokesman to the Associated Press, just two months after being fired as Penn State's head coach and subsequently diagnosed with lung cancer. Multiple outlets in Pennsylvania have reported that Paterno is gravely ill and that his wife, Sue, has summoned family to the hospital for final goodbyes.

"Over the last few days Joe Paterno has experienced further health complications," spokesman Dan McGinn said in a brief statement Saturday. "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."

Paterno has been undergoing radiation treatment since his cancer diagnosis in November, but his health has been an ongoing concern for much of the last decade, beginning with a broken leg he suffered on the sideline in 2006. He also had hip replacement surgery in late 2008, after spending much of the '08 season relegated to the press box. Before his dismissal, he spent most of the 2011 season sequestered in the press box, as well, after being hospitalized following a collision with a player in preseason practice. He was reportedly hospitalized again in December for injuries he suffered in a fall in his home.

Paterno's celebrated 46-year tenure has been permanently marred by a litany of sexual abuse charges against longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who faces 25 felony counts of deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and indecent assault against at least eight victims over more than a decade. On at least one occasion, in 2002, Paterno was informed directly by a graduate assistant who said he saw Sandusky abusing a 10-year-old boy in a locker room shower, but failed to follow up on the situation after reporting it to athletic director Tim Curley the following day.

Later, in his grand jury testimony, Paterno said he "knew inappropriate action was taken by Jerry Sandusky with a youngster" in that incident, but told the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins last week that he "didn't know which way to go" with the information. No one at the university reported or otherwise took significant action against Sandusky, who continued to enjoy access to athletic facilities until his arrest in November. Paterno, Curley and university president Graham Spanier were all terminated by the Penn State Board of Trustees; Curley and another former official also face indictments for perjury and failure to report Sandusky to authorities.

Paterno his career with Division I records for wins (409) and bowl games (37), as well as 29 consensus All-Americans, 22 top-ten finishes, five undefeated seasons, three Big Ten championships and two national championships. He reportedly donated more than $4 million back to Penn State, most notably toward construction of a library which now bears his name.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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