STATE COLLEGE — The Penn State football family lost a long-time member Thursday with the passing of former assistant coach Joe Sarra. He was 75.
Sarra joined the Nittany Lions’ coaching staff in 1984, guiding the defensive line and inside linebackers before becoming an administrative assistant for special projects under former head coach Joe Paterno. Sarra retired from Penn State in 2004.
During his 16-year career as an assistant coach, Sarra helped the Nittany Lions to 15 bowl game berths, highlighted by a national championship in 1986 and undefeated seasons in ’86 and 1994. Penn State captured nine bowl wins while he was a member of the coaching staff and sent numerous players on to the NFL.
Including and after his time at Penn State, Sarra also served as the secretary to the State College Quarterback Club.
A native of Belle Vernon, he graduated from California University of Pennsylvania with a degree in social studies education and guidance and helped the Vulcans finish 8-0 in 1958. He was inducted into the California University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009. The Awards and Honors Committee of the California Alumni Association selected Sarra as the recipient of the Michael Duda Athletic Medallion in 1992.
Sarra later earned a master’s in secondary administration and counseling from West Virginia in 1964.
Sarra began his coaching career in 1961 as the head coach at East Washington High School. He then served as an assistant coach at Belle Vernon High School in 1962-63 and at Hempfield High School for three years before again becoming a head coach at Southern Columbia High School from 1967-69.
Sarra then moved to the college ranks, first as the head coach of the Miami (Ohio) freshman team in 1970, then becoming offensive coordinator at Lafayette in 1971. He moved to the other side of the line to be the Leopards’ defensive coordinator from 1976 until 1982.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and sons, Joe Jr., and Scott. Arrangements have not yet been announced by Koch Funeral Home.