Paterno deserves the record
Share with others:
The justice isn't that the Florida State football program, long considered by many to be dirty, is taking a big fall because of a widespread academic-cheating scandal. The real justice is that the NCAA punishment should cost Bobby Bowden any chance of finishing ahead of Penn State's Joe Paterno in the race to be major college football's all-time winningest coach. It would be a crying shame if Bowden ended up with that record. It would be one of the most fraudulent records in sports, right up there with Barry Bonds' home run record.
Paterno's 383 career wins are legitimate, Bowden's 382 are not.
It's not so much because of the slippery program Bowden has run over the many years, although that's a big part of it. Florida State hasn't been called Free Shoes University and the Criminoles for no reason. But what really would make a Bowden record tainted is that his 31 wins at Howard College -- now Samford University -- at the start of his long career count toward his total. Included among those are victories against noted powerhouses Maryville, Southwestern, Gordon Military and the University of Mexico. According to the NCAA's bizarre guidelines, a coach gets to count all of his wins against four-year schools -- regardless of the level -- once he has coached 10 years on the Division I-A level.
That's beyond bizarre, actually.
That's why it seems only right that the NCAA could strip Bowden of as many as 14 victories because of the Florida State scandal involving 61 athletes in 10 sports in 2006 and '07.
There really is justice in this world.
The NCAA Committee on Infractions put Florida State on four-year probation Friday because of "major violations," reduced scholarships and ruled that the university must vacate all victories in football and the nine other sports in which ineligible athletes participated. Three former Florida State employees provided "improper assistance" to athletes taking online classes in Music Cultures of the World and Sports Psychology.
"Academic fraud is considered by the committee the most egregious of NCAA rules violations," the NCAA said in announcing its sanctions.
Florida State officials, who were praised by the NCAA for self-reporting the violations and cooperating during the investigation, are expected to appeal the vacated wins portion of their punishment.
"We already began implementing our self-imposed penalties [athlete suspensions]," Florida State president T.K. Wetherell said in a statement. "We just don't understand the sanction to vacate all wins in athletic contests in which ineligible student-athletes competed because we did not allow anyone who we knew was ineligible to compete."
You would think Wetherell and his lieutenants should spend their time doing a better job of helping the poor "student-athletes" who need to cheat to pass a music cultures course.
Not to be cynical.
If the NCAA sanctions hold and Bowden has to give up even a portion of the Seminoles' 14 wins from 2006 and '07, it will end any hope he has of catching Paterno. For one thing, Paterno, 82, agreed to a three-year contract extension in December and has shown no indication that he plans on stepping down soon. For another, Florida State already has named Bowden's successor, offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. Bowden, 79, must be out by January 2011, or the university must pay Fisher $5 million.
That's not going to happen.
The Paterno-Bowden race looks to be over.
College football will be better for it in the long run.
The only sad aspect to this unexpected ending is that some -- OK, Florida State fans and Bowden fans -- will turn things around and say Paterno's record is tainted because he didn't set it fair and square, that Bowden wasn't given the chance to beat him. That's nonsense, pure nonsense.
If anyone deserves a significant sports record, it's Paterno.
No, Paterno isn't perfect. He, too, has had his share of troubled players. Unfortunately, it happens at all schools these days. Paterno, like Bowden, also has stayed on long past his expiration date. It's pretty ridiculous that he coaches from the press box during games and often from home during the week.
But Paterno proved long ago that he's the greatest coach in college football history. He has done more for Penn State than any coach at any university. It says here he's twice the coach Bowden is and -- don't underestimate this -- 10 times the man.
The record has to be Paterno's.
That's only right.
First Published March 10, 2009 12:00 am