Coach Eddie Robinson of Grambling State University has lived the great American success story. The son of a sharecropper, he has risen to prominence in his profession and on Saturday is expected to become the winningest college football coach ever with his 324th victory. Robinson tied the late Paul (Bear) Bryant's mark last week when his Tigers defeated Oregon State, a team that plays at the sport's top, Division I-A level, a notch above Grambling. This week the opponent is Prairie View A&M, a fellow member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, but not a very potent one. Prairie View was winless a year ago and shouldn't present much of a challenge in Dallas Saturday night.
The countdown has hardly been accompanied by the kind of hoopla that surrounded Pete Rose's recent batting quest in baseball, but it has been twice as long in the making.
He has carved out his 323-106-15 record during a 43-year career spent entirely at the school that hired him in 1941. The predominantly black school was then known as Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute and Robinson's pay was $63.75 a month.
Grambling football wasn't much to talk about then and in his first season the team went 3-5. The following year, however, the record jumped to 8-0, and despite football's wartime hiatus in 1943 and '44, the die was cast. Robinson would spend the next four decades turning out a succession of winning teams, while coaching such great players as Tank Younger, Willie Davis, Ernie Ladd, Buck Buchanan, and Doug Williams.
``I don't want to be remembered as the guy who broke Bear Bryant's record any more than he wanted to be remembered as the man who broke Amos Alonzo Stagg's record,'' Robinson has said of his pending milestone. ``No one really `replaces' anyone else. I would like to be remembered as a guy who mad the same contributions Bryant did, who influenced people's lives and made an impact on the game.''
He certainly has made his presence felt, and will continue to do so until reaching Louisiana's mandatory retirment age of 70 four years from now.
People at Penn State have begun to call this ``The Year of Living Dangerously,'' a description inspired by a movie of the same name. In this case, the reference is to Penn State's string of narrow victories. For the first time in the school's history the Nittany Lions have won four straight games by a touchdown or less. In order, they have beaten Maryland 20-18; Temple 27-25; and both East Carolina and Rutgers by the same score, 17-10. Earlier in the season Beano Cook, ABC-TV's studio analyst, went out on a limb and predicted Penn State would finish the season playing for the national championship in a major bowl game. That would be quite a turnaround from last season, when in one of the worst campaigns of Coach Joe Paterno's 19-year tenure, the Nittany Lions went 6-5 and did not play in a bowl.
The joke around Boston College last week was that the Miami Hurricanes were sending their mascot. The visitors arrived in New England right after hurricane Gloria passed through. Miami's team didn't arrive until late Friday night, but some of the Florida reporters assigned to cover the game, won by Miami 45-10, didn't get to the stadium until after noon kickoff on Saturday.
Without any electricity or running water after the storm, Yale had to cancel its game with in-state rival Connecticut at the Yale Bowl. It was the first time the Ivy League school had ever canceled a game for weather-related reasons. Thought was given to postponing the contest to Sunday and playing it on the UConn campus in Storrs, but similar problems existed there.
In the eyes of Monday morning quarterbacks, Coach Gerry Faust's job hangs in the balance every time Notre Dame takes the field. By now, with the Irish off to a 1-2 start, they figure he's walking on pretty thin ice. Saturday's game against Air Force, therefore, becomes the latest ``must-win'' situation for the beleaguered coach. And, oh, what a challenge. The contest will be played in Colorado against the 17th-ranked Falcons, who have beaten Notre Dame the last three years and currently are avera ging 49.5 points a game.