I have always thought the word "hero" was overused regarding sports figures. So from that standpoint, in my mind, neither Joe Paterno nor any other coach is a hero. Some can be good mentors. Some can be talented coaches. The pilot "Sully" Sullenberger III, who landed a plan with passengers on the Hudson River with no injuries is a hero. Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut, who just died of cancer was a hero. Neil Armstrong who walked on the moon, and all the other astronauts are heroes. The person who donates a kidney or bone marrow to help another is a hero.
Sports figure, be it high school, college or professional, are not heroes. Some have the potential of being good roll models, but those ranks appear to be shrinking.