Which Active Coach Will Get Closest To Joe Paterno's Record?
At 394 career wins, Joe Paterno sits just six wins away from reaching the 400-win mark, a feat that he will likely be the last to conquer. He will likely end his career as second or third on the all-time wins list, ahead of Bobby Bowden, who has just retired in fourth position.
Because of the seemingly constant coaching changes that take place in college football now, and the continual stress placed on college coaches (evident by Urban Meyer's day long retirement), it is very unlikely that another coach will catch JoePa or Bowden, or even make the top 10.
But some promising young coaches have a chance to get close. Take a look at the top five coaches who have a realistic shot at coming close to Joe Paterno's career record.
Chris Petersen, Boise State
I've never been a big fan of Chris Petersen and Boise State, namely because the Broncos need to win one big game a year to reach a BCS bowl. But that is exactly the reason Petersen may come close to Paterno.
Playing in the WAC (the Mountain West isn't much more difficult), Boise State consistently wins 11 or 12 games per year. In just four years as a head coach, Petersen has accumulated a record of 49-4. And with a preseason ranking of No. 5, the Broncos aren't expected to go away any time soon.
While he is still quite a ways from catching Paterno, Petersen, 45, is still young enough to make a significant run towards the legendary coach. He has the job security to stay in Boise for the rest of his career, and if the easy schedules continue, finishing his career with 350 or more wins is not out of the question.
Gary Patterson, TCU
After leading TCU to a BCS bowl appearance and a 12-1 record in 2009, Gary Patterson became one of the hottest coaches in college football and was linked with many major coaching vacancies.
At age 50, Patterson is young enough to still be around a while longer, and has 85 wins in just 10 seasons. Plus, recent history shows that his TCU teams will likely be averaging near 10 wins per year in the coming seasons.
Patterson likely won't pass Paterno, and may not make the top ten list, but if he stays at TCU and Petersen stays at Boise State, the Mountain West could have an interesting career victories race in a decade or two.
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Unlike the previous two contenders, Kelly has accumulated his wins a variety of different schools. His coaching career started in 1991 at Grand Valley State. He eventually moved to Central Michigan and then to Cincinnati. Now, he will take his 171 career victories to Notre Dame and has a very legitimate shot at reaching the 350-win plateau.
At age 48, Kelly is still relatively young, but his move to Notre Dame may have cost him a shot at JoePa.
At his three previous coaching positions, Kelly was able to win due to easy schedules, especially at Cincinnati, where a 10-win season was doable every year.
At Notre Dame, 10-win seasons won't come as easy, and the stress of coaching the Irish may cause him to end his career early. But if he is able to succeed in South Bend, he has a chance to reach the top five in career coaching victories.
Jim Tressel, Ohio State
At 229 career wins, Tressel is currently tied with Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer for active coaches on the all-time wins list.
Tressel began his head coaching career at Youngstown State in 1986, and took over as the Buckeyes' head man in 2001. Since starting at Ohio State, he has accumulated a record of 94-21, a remarkable feat for the Big Ten.
Of all the "old" coaches (he's 57), Tressel and Beamer have the best chances to come close to Paterno because they consistently win 10 or more games per season. If Tressel coaches as long as JoePa, he might have a chance to top 400, but that doesn't look like a possibility.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Beamer is tied with Tressel for the second most career wins by an active coach, and just like Tressel, has a shot to pass 350 career wins.
Like Ohio State, Virginia Tech is almost a sure bet to get double digit wins each year. In fact, the Hokies have six straight 10-win seasons, the longest streak in the nation.
Beamer and Tressel are similar in many ways. Both are in their late fifties (Beamer is a year older at 58) and both coached at smaller schools before taking over at major programs. Plus, both have excellent job security.
And while they may not rival the Bowden-Paterno chase, Beamer vs. Tressel could end up being a race well past the 300-win mark if both coaches stay at their jobs long enough.