Penn State's creamery named a popular ice-cream flavor Peachy Paterno, and a statue of the coach was built outside the stadium with plaques mounted nearby listing the year-by-year results of every game he coached.
And few dared tell the man known as Joe Pa what to do.
A 26-33 record compiled between 2000 and 2004 prompted then-PSU president Graham Spanier and athletics director Tim Curley, who later also lost their positions over the Sandusky fallout, to encourage Paterno to retire.
He refused and quickly rebounded in 2005 as his team went 11-1 and won the Orange Bowl. And the Nittany Lions kept on winning, sending Paterno to his second Rose Bowl game after the 2008 season.
"I still enjoy it. I guess I'm dumb," he told USA TODAY shortly before the start of the 2006 season.
"If I'm going to get out of it, what am I going to do? (Ex-Florida State coach) Bobby Bowden had the best line: 'If I retire, what am I retiring to?' The alternative doesn't light me up."
It all came crashing down in stunning fashion in the fall of 2011, however, causing many of Paterno's critics to cry that the coach had too much power. In what is regarded as perhaps college athletics' greatest scandal, all the wins and all the bowls weren't enough to allow Paterno to go out on his own terms.Critics said Paterno should have done more to stop it. He was fired Nov. 9. In all, Paterno guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons.