Bobby Bowden Not Rejoicing Over Career Wins* Lead

Bobby Bowden now owns the record for most wins by a head coach in college football's top division, thanks to the NCAA taking 111 wins away from Joe Paterno. He's quite rightly not excited about it.

Bobby Bowden now owns the record for most wins by a head coach in college football’s top division, thanks to the NCAA taking 111 wins away from Joe Paterno. He’s quite rightly not excited about it.

ESPN (“Bobby Bowden: Keep victims in mind“)

With the sanctions levied against Penn State on Monday, former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden now owns the record for most wins in FBS history, but he said the focus of the day’s events should be on the victims of Jerry Sandusky and not the on-field repercussions.

“There’s no rejoicing in the Bowden household,” Bowden said when reached Monday. “The most important matter is the young men who suffered. I won’t be able to enjoy it under the circumstances.

“The fact I knew Joe personally, I’m probably like a lot of the kids who played for him. I hate it for Joe and his family, but the worst part is what happened to those kids and what Jerry Sandusky did.”

Paterno, the longtime Penn State coach, had 111 wins dating to 1998 vacated from his record as part of the NCAA’s sanctions, which also included $60 million in fines, a four-year bowl ban and a loss of scholarships in the wake of the Sandusky child sex assault scandal.

That leaves Paterno with an official win tally of 298, well behind Bobby Bowden’s official career tally of 377.

The late Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson has the overall NCAA Division I record with 408 wins, one fewer than Paterno’s pre-sanction total.

Bowden was on the golf course Monday morning when news of the penalties was relayed to him.

“Nobody would want to have a title given to him this way,” he said at the time in a statement. “No sanctions, no amount of money, and no penalties could ever repay or repair the damage done to those young boys. I just hate the way all of this has happened.

“Nothing that has transpired today has changed what our teams accomplished over the years one bit. All of this attention and focus should be on the innocent victims of this tragedy.”

Bowden himself was stripped of 12 wins by the NCAA over an academic fraud scandal. But, as he says, whatever the NCAA record book says, Bowden had 389 wins on the field and Paterno 409. He’ll likely not correct those referring to him as the all-time wins leader; but he’s not going to take anywhere near the pride in that accomplishment that he would had he beaten Paterno on the field of play.

Robinson’s 408 official wins reflects his actual number, as he was never sanctioned by the NCAA. He spent his entire career (1941 to 1997) at Grambling State, in what was then called Division I-AA. Robinson died in 2007 but his former school has weighed in:

“The Grambling State University family continues to recognize that what happened at Penn State University was an unfortunate tragedy that is much larger than athletics and football,” said Grambling president Frank G. Pogue, Ph.D.

“We support the NCAA’s decisions regarding the sanctions against Football Coach Joe Paterno. We will continue to acknowledge the legendary Eddie G. Robinson as the winningest Division I football coach in American history.

“I have heard the name Eddie G. Robinson nearly all of my life. Having lived and worked for three years in the culture that Eddie G. Robinson created at Grambling and having spent more than 15 years as a university president in Penn State University’s culture and the ever-present shadow of the legendary Joe Paterno, I can easily understand the athletic greatness of Grambling State University and Penn State. It is easy to see why these two highly successful coaching giants respected each other. Because of the human being he was known to be, Eddie G. Robinson would have been the first person to express regrets about the tragedies that occurred at Penn State that led to the removal of Joe Paterno as head football coach of the Nittany Lions, and we at Grambling State University deeply respect the decision of the NCAA to strip Penn State of its wins from 1998 through 2011.

“We are proud that Coach Eddie Robinson will remain the winningest Division I football coach in the history of college football.”

The overall NCAA leader is actually John Gagliardi, who coached at Carroll from 1949 to 1952 and has been at Saint John’s ever since. He has a remarkable 484 wins and is still going strong at age 85. That’s in Division III, though, which is just a step above intramurals.

FILED UNDER: Sports, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Peabody says:

    Talk about saying the right thing at the right time. Very good, Bobby Bowden.