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Bobby Bowden vs. Joe Paterno

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 10, 2009


There's no question that Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno belong in the discussion of the greatest head coaches of all-time. Now, with all the talk of Florida State vacating wins, the debate has stirred up again about which one is better. Pete Fiutak takes a hard look at the record books including the ten best and worst wins for each.

Bobby Bowden vs. Joe Paterno

Taking A Hard Look At The Record Books


By Pete Fiutak 

- Bobby Bowden's Game-By-Game Wins

- Joe Paterno's Game-By-Game Wins

Scroll Down For The Best & Worst Wins For Each Coach

Out of all the controversy and all the discussion of Florida State’s cheating scandal that covered 2006 and 2007, one thing has been made clear if there are any vacated wins that stick to the permanent record book; Bobby Bowden’s shot at finishing his career as the all-time winningest D-I head coach might be over.

It has been an epic race between Bowden and Joe Paterno, two of the larger-than-life legends of the sport, as they’re each setting marks that won’t ever be approached again. How untouchable are these win totals? Bob Stoops, for example, would have to average at least ten wins a year for close to 30 years just to get within range.

Forgetting about the NCAA sanctions for a moment, Paterno finished up last season one win ahead of Bowden up 383 wins to 382. So while any lost wins off Bowden’s total might secure Paterno’s place in history, it could be argued that the Penn State head man deserves the title no matter what.

While Paterno got all his wins at one school, Penn State, Bowden came up with 31 wins at Samford against several interesting opponents. Of course, no one would ever question Bowden’s all-timer status, when taking a hard, objective look at the two careers, it’s not really that close.

The NCAA didn’t start categorizing divisions until 1978, so there was no such things as a win over a D-IAA team until after Bowden and Paterno got rolling, but there are far more mediocre opponents on the Bowden résumé. That’s not to say there aren’t any lousy teams padding Paterno’s win total, there are a whole bunch of victories over Temple and Rutgers, but there aren’t any University of Mexicos, either.

Yes, that’s right. On Bowden’s win total is a 40-0 Samford win over the University of Mexico in 1962. And that’s not the most offensive win (more on the worst of the lot in a moment). Again, Penn State played its share of cupcakes under Paterno, but at least you’ve heard of the ingredients.

Remember when looking at all the wins accumulated by the two that the brand names we all know and accept as big-time programs now weren’t always great, while other teams that aren’t any big deal in today’s day and age used to be powerhouses. However, you’ll be able to tell which wins don’t seem to belong.

Of course, the argument for Bowden’s win total, and keeping the wins at Samford, is legitimate. Before the NCAA split into divisions, college football was just college football. However, if we’re going to count all the wins going back through history, then Bowden and Paterno still have a ton of work to do. John Gagliardi, the long-time head coach at St. John’s in Minnesota, won 461 games and Eddie Robinson won 408.

So what were the best and worst wins for both Paterno and Bowden? Here are the ten biggest highlights and the ten biggest offenders in the record books.

Bobby Bowden’s Ten Worst Wins
10. Samford 56 – Sewanee 0, 1961
9. Samford 80 – at Troy 0, 1961
8. Samford 41 – at Georgetown (KY) 0, 1960
7. Samford 22 – at West Alabama 6, 1960
6. Samford 26 – at Rhodes 0, 1960
5. Samford 40 – University of Mexico 0, 1962
4. Samford 52 – at Gordon Junior College 20, 1959
3. Samford 60 – at Memphis NAS 0, 1961
2. Samford 34 – Tennessee Tech Freshman 0, 1959
1. Tulane 34 – Florida State 28, 1983*

*By this point, Florida State was special under Bowden. The program had been in the national title mix, went to a few Orange Bowls, and had grown from nothing to a superpower. An awful Tulane team that finished 4-7 on the field, 2-9 in the history books, shocked the Noles early in the 1983 season, but later had to forfeit the win. According to the Florida State record books, the 1983 team went 8-4 despite winning just seven games on the field.

Bobby Bowden’s Ten Greatest Wins
10. Florida State 20 – at North Carolina 3, 1997
9. Florida State 51 – at Michigan 31, 1991
8. Florida State 31 – Nebraska 28 (1988 Fiesta Bowl)
7. Florida State 13 – Auburn 7 (1989 Sugar Bowl)
6. Florida State 24 – at Clemson 21, 1988
5. Florida State 36 – Pitt 22, 1980
4. Florida State 24 – Miami 10, 1989
3. Florida State 24 – Florida 21, 1996
2. Florida State 18 – Nebraska 16 (1994 Orange Bowl)
1. Florida State 46 – Virginia Tech 29, (2000 Sugar Bowl)

Joe Paterno’s Ten Worst Wins
10. Penn State 66 – Temple 14, 1995
9. Penn State 66 – Coastal Carolina 10, 2008
8. Penn State 52 – Eastern Michigan 7, 1992
7. Penn State 27 – Iowa 8, 1973
6. Penn State 37 – UCF 13, 2004
5. Penn State 23 – Temple 10, 2003
4. Penn State 38 – Maryland 3, 1967
3. Penn State 56 – William & Mary 18, 1984
2. Penn State 38 – Brown 21, 1983
1. Penn State 59 – Army 3, 1973

Joe Paterno’s Ten Greatest Wins
10. Penn State 30 – Texas 6 (1972 Cotton Bowl)
9. Penn State 42 – Tennessee 17 (1992 Fiesta Bowl)
8. Penn State 20 – West Virginia 0, 1969
7. Penn State 16 – LSU 9 (1974 Orange Bowl)
6. Penn State 48 – at Pitt 14, 1981
5. Penn State 10 – Missouri 3 (1970 Orange Bowl)
4. Penn State 38 – Oregon 20, (1995 Rose Bowl)
3. Penn State 27 – Nebraska 24, 1982
2. Penn State 27 – Georgia 23 (1983 Sugar Bowl)
1. Penn State 14 – Miami 10, (1987 Fiesta Bowl)

- Bobby Bowden's Game-By-Game Wins

- Joe Paterno's Game-By-Game Wins