Even in the era of steroids and Congressional investigations, there are records in the sporting world which remain untainted and virtually unattainable. They stand alone on the mountain top of achievement in their sport.
Mere mortals attempt to break them and all fall short.
Nobody has ever come within a dozen games of Joe Dimaggio's 56 game hitting streak.
The closest man to Cal Ripken's streak today is some 2,300 games behind.
Add Joe Paterno's to that list of immortal records. Forget for a moment the 60+ years at one school or 44 as head coach at one school. Assuming that his team has five more wins in it this season or the next, 400 wins for a FBS coach is nearly impossible for anyone else to reach.
With Bobby Bowden's departure from the scene, there is nobody else in the top ten of all time coaching victories still active.
Let's look at some of the most successful coaches in college football today and see how far they have to go.
Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer is 12th on the all time wins list at 229 entering the season. He is also the oldest coach on the list hitting 64 next month. Assuming that he's willing to stick around for a while and that he can maintain at least his .664 winning percentage, Frank is the man most likely numerically to top JoePA.
Trouble is Beamer will still have to be on the sidelines in the year 2031 to do it.
Coming in at No. 13 on the wins list is Mack Brown of Texas. Brown has turned the once so-so Longhorn program into a national power and collected 214 wins for his efforts. If he managed to keep rolling at his present rate, he could break Paterno's record just shy of the end of the 2032 season, when he would be only 81.
Brown is also the only man on this list with a succession plan already in place. Men whose retirement plans include the career aspirations of other driven men don't stick around another 22 years. Ask Bobby Bowden.
Entering his 11th season with the Sooners, Bob Stoops is one of the most tenured men on the list. The Youngstown, Ohio native has racked up 117 wins in that time for an astronomical .807 winning percentage. Still healthy and just turning 50 this week would seemingly make Stoops a favorite in this race. But the numbers tell a different story.
Stoops would have to average just over 10 wins a season for the next 28 years to match 400. Think that's easy? It means that Stoops record between now and the year 2039 would be something on the order of 283-81 and make 28 straight bowl games.
He would have to stick around until after his 79th birthday.
Considering his recent health problems, near nervous breakdown in the offseason, and his December resignation, Meyer is the least likely man on this list to match the Paterno record.
At 46, Meyer is the second youngest man on our list. His gaudy .842 winning percentage and 96 wins put him on track for the crown, but he would have to maintain that torrid pace for another 30 years to reach the promised land of 400. In fact, Meyer would need more additional wins to reach 400 than Beamer and Brown have in their careers.
This from a man whose doctors told him that his lifestyle had already taken a serious toll on his life expectancy?
Saban's time at Michigan State probably cost him a real chance at the record, and working for a school that has been through nine head coaches in the last 27 years isn't exactly a place to set these sorts of records.
The 59 year old Saban clocks in at 124 wins and a doable winning percentage of .725. But roll all of that together, and we'd see a 90 year old coach taking the Gatorade bath in the year 2041.
College football's flavor of the month is Boise State's Chris Petersen. The 45 year old is the youngest man on the list but also runs with the lowest win total of 49. His winning percentage is .925
Petersen is the perfect example of why Paterno's record may never fall.
Here is a coach who has assembled a strong team playing in a weak conference garnering national attention by winning one or two marque games a year. He has put Boise State on the map and could stay there forever if he so chooses. But even in this nearly perfect environment, Petersen would need another 35 years of 10 win seasons to get to 400 and would be 80 when he got there.
With the money crashing around college football these days, can you see Petersen staying in Boise that long?
In truth, he has a better chance of succeeding Paterno at Penn State than he does eclipsing his records.
Jim Tressel came late in life to the FBS party, and in the end, that is what will cost him the record. Tressel is 58 years old with only 94 wins under his belt. As good as Ohio State has been on his watch, and as good as they are likely be to long into the future, Tressel just got too late a start on racking up wins at this level.
Even if he were to continue his excellence, the earliest that Tressel would come close to 400 wins would be in the 2041 season when he would be a ripe 90.
Brian Kelly may indeed wake up the echoes, but he is another good coach off to a late start. The 49 year old takes over a program in South Bend that, while not in shambles, is dented and badly in need of a tuneup. That is not the sort of situation that middle aged coaches wanting a piece of this record can work with readily.
At 53 wins, Kelly built something out of nothing in Cincinnati. Still, if he were able to do likewise in the shadow of "Touchdown Jesus" he would have to stick around another 38 years. Not even old Joe will be stomping a sideline at 91.
Kirk Ferentz only seems like he's been around forever. He is the most tenured man on this list and has built his Iowa teams into a solid contender in the Big Ten year after year after year.
But Ferentz is another coaching lifer who got a late start on his FBS coaching numbers. Ferentz will turn 55 this year and needs a strong season from his Hawkeyes to get to an even 100 career wins in 2010. With barely a .500 lifetime record, getting to 400 is out of the question.
Harbaugh has done wonders with the program at Stanford and is likely to see his win totals climb in the coming years in part due to the NCAA's beatdown on Southern Cal.
But Harbaugh will have more candles on his next birthday cake than he has games in the win column. You have a better chance of flying to the moon than Harbaugh has in reaching 400 wins.