Joe Paterno's family was summoned to the hospital.

Share story

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, his body ravaged by chemotherapy and radiation treatments for lung cancer, fiercely battled for his life Saturday night at Mount Nittany Medical Center.

Paterno’s family, which includes his wife Sue, five children and 17 grandchildren, were summoned in the afternoon to the hospital, where Paterno has been under care since being readmitted Jan. 13.

Quoting individuals close to the family, The Washington Post reported on its website that Paterno remained connected to a ventilator, but had communicated his wishes not to be kept alive through any extreme artificial means. The paper said his family was weighing whether to take him off the ventilator Sunday.

Two reports at around 5:45 p.m. PST Saturday, one by CBSSports.com and another by the “Onward State” website, declared that the 85-year-old Paterno had died. But family spokesman Dan McGinn told The Associated Press the report was “not true.”

Later, two of Paterno’s sons issued tweets that refuted the websites’ report.

“I appreciate the support & prayers,” said Jay Paterno, who worked for his father as quarterbacks coach. “Joe is continuing to fight.”

Scott Paterno tweeted, “CBS report is wrong. Dad is alive but in serious condition. We ask for your prayers and your privacy during this time.”

CBSsports.com had a correction and apology atop its home page later Saturday.

A statement issued earlier Saturday night by McGinn on behalf of the family said that Paterno had “experienced further health complications” and that 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.”

NBC News reported that continued chemotherapy treatments had created complications for Paterno that resulted in his going back into the hospital.

The winningest major college football coach, 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. While undergoing treatment, his health problems worsened when he broke his pelvis — the same injury he sustained during preseason practice last year.

Not long before returning to the hospital, Paterno conducted his only interview since losing his job, with the Post. Paterno was described as frail and wearing a wig. The second half of the two-day interview was conducted from his bedside.

Roughly 200 students and townspeople gathered Saturday night at a statue of Paterno just outside a gate at Beaver Stadium. The mood was somber, with no chanting or shouting.

“Drove by students at the Joe statue,” Jay Paterno tweeted. “Just told my Dad about all the love & support — inspiring him.”

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 during two national title seasons, was arrested Nov. 5 and ultimately charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years.

Paterno announced late on Nov. 9 that he would retire at the end of the season, but hours later he received a call from board vice chairman John Surma, telling him he had been terminated. By that point, a crowd of students and media were outside the Paterno home. When news spread that Paterno had been dumped, there was rioting in State College.

Trustees said this week they pushed Paterno out in part because he failed a moral responsibility to report an allegation made in 2002 against Sandusky to authorities outside the university. They also felt he had challenged their authority and that, as a practical matter, with all the media attention to the Sandusky case, he could no longer run the team.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.