Bobby Bowden-Joe Paterno: The Amazing Race?

Kevin McGuireSenior Analyst IMarch 10, 2009

Some would say that the race for the all-time college football coaching victories race will be determined by which ever old man is more bitter and reluctant to step down. Now the big question may not be of age, but job security.

Over the last decade there has been a fascinating race in college football for the all-time coaching victories record. It started when Penn State head coach Joe Paterno passed the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant.

When Penn State went through a dry spell in the beginning of the decade, Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden made up some critical ground, eventually passing Paterno to become the all-time leader in coaching victories.

Now Paterno has worked hard to find his way back on top, with a 383-382 lead on Bowden as the schools prepare for the upcoming 2009 football season. But with the recent allegations and punishments being placed on Florida State University, is the race really that close?

Florida State is being punished for an academic scam that saw many athletes, some including football players, cheating on on-line exams. Part of the penalties to be enforced include forfeited any games in which the guilty players participated, which would include the 2006 and 2007 athletic seasons.

The Seminoles won a total of 14 games between the 2006 and 2007 seasons (14-12 overall), although it will take some time to determine how many of those victories that ineligible players participated in.

Any of those victories will be vacated if an ineligible player participated in just one play on offense, defense, or special teams. Should the Seminoles lose all of their 14 victories, Paterno's lead over Bowden in the victories race would be an astounding 15 games.

The school has just under 90 days to provide the information on ineligible players.

Bowden's coaching situation is vastly different than Paterno's at Penn State. While Paterno is signed for another three years as the PSU head coach there is no plan for succession that has been announced, which has become a trend in college football to supposedly help recruiting.

Florida State has already announced that Bowden's successor will be offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher whenever Bowden decides to call it quits. Bowden will continue to work on a year-by-year basis though, as per his contract's options from year to year.

But Bowden, at age 79, is now going through what Paterno did a few years ago. Bowden s receiving more and more criticism for his team's results, and now for his team's actions off the field. While Paterno was able to get through the same nonsense, despite an attack piece produced by ESPN's Outside the Lines last year, Bowden may not be so fortunate.

With his program sinking in the expanded ACC, being surpassed by schools like Wake Forest, Virginia, Boston College and Clemson the pressure was hot enough on Bowden's coaching regime.

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The program that was dominant in the 90's has put together two seasons of ten plus wins since 2000 (11-2 in 2000 and 10-3 in 2003). In four BCS game appearances the Seminoles are 0-4.

They were 6-2 in BCS bowls (although most were before the BCS existed) and went to nine straight Orange, Sugar or Fiesta Bowls, including two national championships. With the program trudging through mediocrity today Bowden may not see many more extensions come his way.

If Bowden loses 14 games in the victories race, can he overcome a fifteen game deficit to Paterno? It is unlikely, but only time will tell how many games he will trail Paterno when the 2009 season starts.

If Florida State is forced to vacate those fourteen victories, or whatever the number may end up being, it does not mean that Bowden will automatically lose more ground on Paterno.

The schools that were defeated in the games have the choice to refuse accepting the victory by forfeit, meaning the record books for that specific game would remain untainted. It is not unheard of for a school to give up a victory in this fashion.

Sure, Paterno and Bowden openly proclaim that they do not care about the all-time coaching victories record, nor should they. The record is much more followed by the fans of the schools, with Penn State fans being much more vocal on the topic.

Only time will tell what happens in the great coaching victories race. And if it is up to Paterno and Bowden, time is not an issue.

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