(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) — A candlelight vigil was held outside of Penn State’s administration building Sunday night to honor the university’s former head football coach Joe Paterno, who passed away that morning at the age of 85.
In a statement, Paterno’s family announced Sunday morning that he had died at a hospital in State College, Pa., of complications from lung cancer. Minutes after the announcement, people began to gather at the bronze statue of Paterno on the Penn State campus.
“What we lost today is really really hard to replace. In fact, won’t be replaced, it’s just a sad day,” said former Penn State linebacker Matt Millen. “Guys like coach Paterno rarely rarely come around and they touch many many lives on many different levels, and it’s not just about football, it is way beyond that.”
Paterno’s son Scott tweeted: “My family wants to express our heartfelt thanks to the hospital staff and doctors. They were amazing and caring — Thanks isn’t enough. We would also like to thank all of the tens of thousands of people who have been praying — your kindness continues to sustain us. Finally, to Penn Staters, past and present, know that Dad loves you all and has always loved being part of your family.”
Paterno’s son Jay also shared similar sentiments on Twitter: “Our family thanks Penn Staters, students & all people for prayers & support for my Dad. He felt your support in his fight.”
The Penn State Board of Trustees and University President Rodney Erickson released a statement saying the university plans to honor Paterno, “for his many contributions and to remember his remarkable life and legacy.”
Paterno, the winningest coach in Division 1 football, was fired in November in the wake of the child abuse case involving his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Upon hearing the news, students rallied on campus for the man they affectionately called “Joe Pa,” and Paterno thanked his supporters.
“It’s hard for me to tell you how much this means to me,” he said. “I’ve lived through this place, I lived for people like you guys and girls.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Jen Christensen, CNN
Eric Bradner, CNN