Wednesday, September 16, 2009


With weekly attention to coaching in college football, how long did you think it would take to get to these two coaching giants? Joe Paterno at Penn State and Bobby Bowden at Florida State are the two coaches with the most sustained success in the game today. Bowden caught Paterno for the lead in the race for the most all-time wins by a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) head coach earlier this decade and they have flipped-flopped spots at one and two over the last two to three years with neither one taking more than a one or two game advantage.

Which coach is better? Who would you rather have coaching your team? This is an endless debate rooted in opinion. Nevertheless, here is a quick analysis of each coaches’ resume:
  • 385 wins 127 losses 3 ties
  • 23-11-1 Bowl Record (23 wins is a record)
  • 44th year coaching
  • 2 National Championships
  • 5 undefeated seasons
  • 5 losing seasons


  • 383-124-4
  • 21-10-1 Bowl Record (21 wins is second most to Paterno)
  • 44th year coaching
  • 2 National Championships
  • 1 undefeated season
  • 2 losing seasons


A few other interesting facts:

  1. Bowden’s teams were ranked in the top 5 for 14 straight years (1987-2000).
  2. Paterno has had one undefeated season each decade (1968, 1969, 1973, 1986, 1994)—note: the 2000s have not concluded yet, maybe he gets one this year.
  3. 31 of Bowden’s victories came in four year at Samford, a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school.
  4. Paterno’s style of play has been more traditional, balanced pass-run attack.
  5. Bowden’s style of play has been flashy and spread out to take advantage of great team speed.

This off season, the Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden duel for the wins record took a strange, unforeseen twist when the NCAA sanctioned Florida State University for a student academics scandal. Part of the sanctions was to vacate 14 Florida State victories. Florida State has relentlessly appealed this decision by the NCAA, and to my knowledge the appeals are still ongoing.

Although it seems an oxymoron that one of these two has to be a loser in the battle for most wins, I am quietly rooting for Paterno to ultimately end up on top, even with Bowden’s 14 wins restored. Nothing against Bowden. My feelings are mostly to avoid controversy and endless debate for the next 100 years. First, Bowden has 31 wins at a FCS school. Personally, I can’t penalize Bowden for his 31 wins at a FCS school. Technically, FBS and FCS are the same division in NCAA sports, but more importantly, how many of Paterno’s wins have come against FCS teams? Second, the NCAA’s ruling to vacate 14 Florida State wins. If Paterno ends with the most wins, then Bowden supporters will argue it was the vacated wins. If the wins are restored and Bowden ends with the most wins, then Paterno supporters will argue that Bowden cheated for his wins. Both of these men have had such great careers, their retirements do not deserve to be tainted.

In any case, the Bowden vs. Paterno battle is great for coaching in college football. Perhaps the more important issue is what will happen when they are gone. Coaching is evolving with the rest of the sport and we may never see a 300 win coach again.

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