Sue Paterno is an avid swimmer known for taking early-morning laps in the pool. The person who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation said Wednesday night the rejection left the family saddened.
A university spokesman said he was unaware of any such directive. The school had said last week that Paterno still held tenure.
School trustees fired Joe Paterno on Nov. 9 from the job he held for nearly a half-century in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
Paterno also was recently diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer. The person said the coach was focused on beating the illness "and seeing the full truth" emerge.
The Patriot News of Harrisburg first reported the rejection at the pool.
Paterno testified before a grand jury looking into the abuse allegations that a graduate assistant told him in 2002 that he witnessed an incident in the shower in the team locker room. Prosecutors have said Paterno had passed on the information to his superior.
But Paterno has said specific actions alleged to have occurred in the grand jury report were not relayed to him. Paterno is not a target of the investigation, according to authorities.
Still, the state's top cop criticized the way school leaders handled allegations and said Paterno and other officials had a moral responsibility to do more.
The 84-year-old Paterno initially announced his retirement effective at the end of the season, saying that the scandal was "one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more." The trustees fired him anyway, about 12 hours later.
His son, Scott, said last week in a statement that Joe Paterno's cancer was diagnosed during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness. He requested privacy for the family.
Paterno's former players appeared to be heeding the request. Right tackle Chima Okoli said this week that the team knows Paterno doesn't want sympathy. No. 20 Penn State plays at No. 15 Wisconsin this weekend with a berth in the inaugural Big Ten title game at stake.
Paterno is Division I's winningest coach with 409 victories.
"We're focusing on Wisconsin," linebacker Nate Stupar said Tuesday. "(But) definitely we've been thinking about him, and we're hoping he's doing all right, and just praying for him."
The person close to the Paterno family told the AP that Paterno was receiving thousands of calls or messages from former players, alumni and other well-wishers, and that Paterno was encouraging patience and to trust in the truth.
Sue Paterno was a longtime fixture at the school and helped raise money for the library and organized Special Olympics on campus.