The US Census Bureau places the average retirement age at 62 years old. Joe Paterno turned 62 in 1988 and subsequently remained Penn State's head football coach for an additional 22 years.
Paterno's legacy was greatly tarnished by the allegations involving former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, and it's a legacy that's likely to continue to take shape in the coming months and years as more is revealed about Paterno's involvement in the scandal. However, Paterno's commitment to Penn State football was nothing if not unwavering. His ability to build and maintain a successful program over the course of 46 years as Penn State's head coach, and another 16 years as an assistant there, is not just unprecedented. It may never be repeated.
|JoePa by the Numbers|
|Seasons as Head Coach||46|
|Avg. Wins per Season||8.9|
|Career Win % (409-136-3)||74.6|
|1st Round NFL Draft Picks||33|
|Players Signed to NFL Contracts||+360|
Can Anyone Top 409 Wins at the FBS Level?
Although other coaches have approached Paterno's longevity and success (23 active coaches have accumulated more than 200 wins), no one comes close to replicating Paterno's record at the Division I FBS level. Among active coaches with more than 200 wins, only three, Virgina Tech's Frank Beamer (251 wins), Mack Brown of Texas (227 wins) and Nevada's Chris Ault (226 wins), coach a Division I FBS school.
If Beamer averages 8.4 wins per season, as he has during his coaching tenure at Virginia Tech, he'll need another 19 seasons to cross the 409-win plateau. Beamer, currently 65 years old, can plan to celebrate his 410th victory right around the time he's also celebrating his 85th birthday.
Brown, at the young age of 60, has perhaps the best chance to catch Paterno. If Brown maintains the 10 wins he's averaged per season as head coach of Texas, he'll pass 409 wins 19 seasons from now, at the reasonable (by comparison) age of 79.
The math shakes out worse for the 65-year-old Ault. If he maintains the eight wins per season he's averaged in 11 years coaching Nevada at the FBS level, he'll need to put in another 23 years at the helm and coach until the ripe age of 88.
Penn State Powerhouse
Paterno's legacy has been forever altered during the last three months. It would be unfair to examine the expanse of his career without reflecting on the scandal that ended it. However, it is perhaps also unfair to discredit what Paterno was able to accomplish in six decades at Penn State. The program had certainly experienced success prior to the arrival of Paterno, but he navigated Penn State into the modern era of college football and built a powerhouse that produced just five losing seasons during his 62 years as a head coach or assistant coach.
Utilizing WhatIfSports.com's NCAA football simulation engine, we ranked every Penn State team of the BCS era (1998-present). Every team “played” every other team 101 times, and teams are ranked by their average win percentage in those matchups. Simulations are based on the actual rosters and depth charts of each team.
|Ranking Joe Paterno's Penn State Teams: BCS Era|
|1||2008 Penn State Nittany Lions||81.7||33.9|
|2||1998 Penn State Nittany Lions||66.2||29.0|
|3||1999 Penn State Nittany Lions||62.6||29.3|
|4||2009 Penn State Nittany Lions||60.7||27.7|
|5||2002 Penn State Nittany Lions||59.9||29.1|
|6||2006 Penn State Nittany Lions||59.5||25.9|
|7||2005 Penn State Nittany Lions||58.9||25.2|
|8||2011 Penn State Nittany Lions||57.3||27.6|
|9||2007 Penn State Nittany Lions||56.6||27.6|
|10||2010 Penn State Nittany Lions||41.9||27.4|
|11||2000 Penn State Nittany Lions||31.0||23.1|
|12||2004 Penn State Nittany Lions||26.7||21.4|
|13||2001 Penn State Nittany Lions||20.3||23.4|
|14||2003 Penn State Nittany Lions||16.8||20.5|