In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Joe Paterno received letters from an unknown person, letters that threatened to kill him or his family or his staff members.
Paterno believed the letters were gambling-related.
From the Washington Times:
“It now appears to [Paterno], the purpose of letters is to disrupt his football team,” an FBI memo said.
“[Gamblers] may be using this technique to benefit themselves in future point-spread betting involving PSU and opponents.”
One of the letters obtained by the Washington Times (from an 868-page FBI file) makes reference to Pitt—as in, Pittsburgh Panthers football—and says, “Pitt means nothing to me, but I know what it means to Paterno to beat Pitt.”
The Washington Times provided little context but it’s evident that a gambling connection is present and that Paterno felt the letters were penned by gamblers with a clear motivation.
“So you think I am a gambler — the only gambler is Paterno — he is gambling with your life,” one letter read. “I want to make him suffer. I want it to be on his conscious that he was responsible for a tragic accident to you.”
Penn State lost to top-ranked Pittsburgh 24-7 in 1976, but got revenge a year later with a 15-13 victory—a matchup between a pair of top-10 teams. The latter game was played on Nov. 26, 1977. Paterno received a letter the next month.
It’s unclear what else will be uncovered by the newspaper, but this is certainly a bizarre story.