Penn State: College football record one win away for Joe Paterno
Penn State’s head coach Joe Paterno has long been a Nittany Lion in winner’s mode. With a victory over Illinois Saturday, Paterno will have the most wins in the major-college ranks.
Penn State’s Joe Paterno is already three decades beyond being age-eligible for AARP membership. The university’s head football coach not only can claim seniority in his profession, he’s about to reach an Everest peak with more wins than any other major-college coach in history.Skip to next paragraph
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His next coaching victory, which could come Saturday against Illinois, will be his 409th. That would give him one more than the record he currently shares with the late Eddie Robinson, who rang up 408 career wins at Grambling State in Grambling, La.
Altogether Paterno has coached for 62 years at Penn State, first as an assistant to Rip Engle, and for the last 46 years as the head man. That tenure at the helm makes him the longest continuously serving coach at the same Division I school, a mark previously held by Amos Alonzo Stagg, who spent 44 years at the University of Chicago.
During six decades on the Penn State sideline, Paterno has coached in more than half of all the game’s in the school’s long football history, which began in 1887.
Consider this: When Paterno arrived in University Park, Pa., fresh out of college in 1950, Harry Truman was president and Winston Churchill was still Britain’s prime minister. The Korean conflict was raging.
On the gridiron, things were far different than they are today. Army was second-ranked and Princeton No. 6. Penn State was an independent, decades away from joining the Big Ten Conference. H-shaped goalposts were made of wood, and players had single-bar face masks, if any at all.
Despite all that Paterno has done plying his trade in Pennsylvania’s “Happy Valley,” it wasn’t long ago that even the faithful began to think the Brooklyn native may have stayed too long at the dance. Yes, he had led the Nittany Lions to five undefeated seasons, two national championships (in 1982 and 1986), and more bowl wins than any coach in history (35) – this while making generous financial gifts to the university. But the “Grand Experiment” – Paterno’s vision for successfully marrying winning football with academic integrity – appeared to be faltering.