Paterno vs. Bowden

I don’t care who you are or which team you support, you have to admire the longevity of both Penn State’s Joe Paterno and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden. This coaching pair have dedicated a lifetime to teaching young men the game of football, and preparing them for careers in the NFL. With the Nittany Lions Alamo Bowl victory, just one game separates these two men on the all time wins leader board, with the 78 year old Bowden holding a 373-372 lead over the 81 year old Paterno.

Although these coaches appear to be in somewhat of a dogfight to end their careers as the overall leader, there’s somewhat of a catch to it all. Joe Paterno’s 372 victories were all posted against Division 1-A opponents. Bobby Bowden scored 49 victories against programs no longer playing Division 1-A football.

If making the comparison of greatness, you also have to take into consideration the quality of the opponents. Bowden began by coaching Howard and West Virginia, before taking the FSU job in 1976, and one can argue the quality of those schedules. For many years, Penn State played outside of conferences, scheduling as an independent, and that quality can be debated as well.

In 1976, Bowden took over a Seminoles team that had won only 4 games over a 3 year period. He won 5 games in his first year, before posting 10 wins in his second campaign. In comparison, Joe Paterno grabbed the reins of a Nittany Lions team that managed to win only 5 games in his first year, before going 8-2-1 in his second, and having back to back undefeated seasons in Paterno’s 3rd and 4th years. Under Bobby Bowden, The Noles were crownded National champions in ’93 and ’99. Under Paterno, the Lions were the national champions of ’82 and ’86.

The Seminoles are 19-8-1 with Bobby Bowden coaching bowl games. During his tenure, FSU went 14 straight seasons with a finish among the nation’s top 5, unmatched by any other program. Paterno has appeared in, and won more, bowl games than any coach in history, posting a mark of 23-10-1. Paterno led Penn State to 5 unbeaten seasons, and though 4 of those unbeatens went on to win major bowl games, none were awarded the national title.

It’s nearly impossible to choose one over the other, when the career paths are mirrored with success. And outside the greed and disloyalty displayed in today’s coaching carousel, we can look at Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions and Bobby Bowdens Seminoles, and remember not only how things used to be, but how they should be.

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~ by Anthony on December 30, 2007.

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