Former Penn State assistant football coach Sarra dies

Posted: July 21, 2012

Joe Sarra, 75, a former Penn State assistant football coach who was on the staff when the Nittany Lions won the 1986 national championship, died Thursday night, the football program said on Twitter.

Mr. Sarra, a native of Fayette City, Pa., joined the staff in 1984 after working at defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's Second Mile foundation. He coached linebackers for his first nine seasons and took over the defensive line in 1993. He became an administrative assistant for special projects after the 1999 season and retired in 2004.

Mr. Sarra received some unwanted publicity after his retirement when it was revealed he was the target of prank phone calls in 2005 from linebacker Dan Connor, a Strath Haven High graduate who would later become an all-American, and two other players.

Upon hearing of the incident, the late Joe Paterno suspended Connor for the first three games of the 2005 season and kept him out of the starting lineup the next two games. Police chose not to press charges after Connor and the other players apologized to Mr. Sarra.

"I was a young guy acting like an idiot," Connor said in a 2007 interview. "It's one of those things you wish you could take back."

Connor, who signed in March with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent, did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

Former Penn State player Adam Taliaferro, who was nearly paralyzed following a serious injury in 2000 and is now a member of the university's board of trustees, called Mr. Sarra "our family's rock during difficult times."

Taliaferro said on Twitter: "RIP Coach Sarra - Great PSU coach and even better man. I will never forget everything you did for me and my family during my recovery. - Thank you"

Mr. Sarra, who played his college football at California (Pa.), coached at several high schools in Pennsylvania. He began collegiate coaching as an assistant at Miami of Ohio and Lafayette before going to Penn State. In recent years, he served as secretary of the State College Quarterbacks Club.

His is survived by his wife, Barbara, and sons Joe Jr. and Scott.

Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or or follow him on Twitter @joejulesinq. Read his blog, Lion Eyes, at


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