Later, two of Paterno’s sons issued tweets that refuted the web site’s 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.”
Both sources of the erroneous reports used social media to apologize.
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,” the statement concluded.
NBC News reported that continued chemotherapy treatments had created complications for Paterno that resulted in his going back into the hospital eight days ago.
Paterno’s lung cancer was disclosed by his family on Nov. 18, nine days after he was fired by the university’s board of trustees in the wake of the child sexual abuse scandal that was revealed following the indictment on Nov. 5 of former Paterno assistant Jerry Sandusky.
At the time, the family called it a “treatable” form of lung cancer. But after Paterno suffered a broken pelvis in a fall at his home, he was admitted to the hospital on Dec. 11 to make it easier for him to receive chemotherapy and radiation. He originally had injured his pelvis early in pre-season practice in August when he collided with wide receiver Devon Smith.
He was released from the hospital on Dec. 18 but returned on Jan. 13, right after he completed an interview with Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post. The interview, which was published last Sunday, contained his first public comments since the scandal and his firing as head coach.
While in the hospital the first time, a family friend said the cancer treatments “were really taking a lot out of him.” Jay Paterno said prior to Penn State’s appearance in the TicketCity Bowl that his father had his “good days and bad” but added: “He’s a fighter, and he’s fighting this.”
Word of Paterno’s grave condition resulted in hundreds of people — students, alumni and the curious — turning out at the Paterno statue located outside of Beaver Stadium. Five students dug snow out from around the statue, allowing people to gather with candles or to place flowers at the base of the statue.
One football player, offensive tackle Eric Shrive, put a Penn State hat at the base.
Jay Paterno tweeted that he had driven by the students, adding, “Just told my Dad about all the love & support — inspiring him.”
Football players, thousands of whom made their way through Penn State since Paterno came to the campus as an assistant coach in 1950, made their thoughts known about their former coach.
“When I committed to Penn State, the #1 thing you said is that I will get my degree,” tweeted defensive end Eric Latimore, a Philadelphia native. “Look what you did.”
Daryll Clark, a former All-Big Ten quarterback whose last season was in 2009, said he was “praying so hard right now. Please join me.”
Paterno became the winningest head coach in Division I football history on Oct. 29th, when the Nittany Lions defeated Illinois for his 409th victory. It would be the last of the 548 games he served as Penn State’s head coach, covering almost 46 full seasons.
Paterno’s firing generated a storm of outrage from former players and other alumni.
The trustees decided that Paterno did not go far enough after being informed in 2002 by assistant coach Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant, that he had witnessed Sandusky in the shower with a young boy allegedly committing a sexual act.
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @joejulesinq on Twitter. Read his blog, "Lion Eyes," at www.philly.com/lioneyes. Jake Kaplan contributed to this report.