It's no secret that Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden have been competing for the lead in all time wins for years now. A few years ago it looked like Bobby was going to walk away with it. Penn State was suffering through its fourth losing season in five years and many people were calling for Joe Paterno to step down.
But Paterno stayed in power and turned things around. Meanwhile, Bowden and the Florida State Seminoles have struggled allowing Paterno to take back the all time lead. At the end of the 2008 season Paterno held a one game lead.
Then the NCAA came along and slapped Florida State for the academic scandal in which dozens of FSU athletes cheated on online exams. As a result Florida State was forced to give up scholarships, but more importantly they were forced to vacate 14 wins in which the cheating athletes appeared. This now gives Paterno a 15 game lead going into the 2009 season, and given the resurgence of the Nittany Lion program combined with a new three year extension in his pocket it doesn't look like Paterno can be caught.
To his credit, whenever he has been asked about the record, Paterno has always said he doesn't care. This may or may not be true, but it's the right thing to say. It's a lesson in being gracious to your opponent. In fact, when Joe was asked about FSU having to vacate 14 wins, Paterno openly said he does not agree with the decision.
"My feeling is, Bobby coached the team he had and he won, OK? He ought to get credit for the wins," Paterno told a group of reporters after a booster meeting Thursday night. "I think that's ridiculous."
Again, Paterno may not mean a word of this. He probably went home and cracked open a bottle of champagne the day he heard Bowden was losing 14 wins for all we know. But it's the proper thing to say when asked about it.
But the response from Florida State President T.K. Wetherell and Bobby Bowden to the NCAA decision has been nothing short of pathetic.
"We just don't understand the sanction to vacate all wins in athletics contests in which ineligible student-athletes competed because we did not allow anyone who we knew was ineligible to compete," FSU President T.K. Wetherell said in a statement released by the university. "Our position throughout the inquiry was that as soon as we knew of a problem, they didn't play."
This is their response. We didn't know that 30 players were cheating. We didn't know that three people we put in charge of tutoring and supporting these athletes were purposely helping them cheat. We shouldn't be punished for this.
It's pretty sad to see this coming from a university president. It's clear that it's all about getting Bobby the record. Bowden has pretty much come out and said so himself.
When asked if he believed it was unfair that the NCAA would determine who ultimately is recognized as the game's winningest coach, Bowden said: "Oh yeah, oh sure, because I'm not going to stay in it that much longer."
"It will mean something to me," he added about finishing on top. "You'd like to leave something for your grandchildren, and the thing about it the race between Joe and I, it's not like there are seven more of us, it's just us two and you hate to give up in a good battle like that.
"But as far as losing sleep over it I don't do that."
He wants to "leave something for his grandchildren". How noble. I'm sure his grandkids would be proud that grand daddy Bowden's players that he coached cheated on their tests and he didn't think he should be held responsible for it. It's "unfair" that he should have to give up wins earned by players that became ineligible the moment they cheated on their tests.
But what really gets me is reading stuff like this.
In its report on the FSU case the committee indicated FSU would have faced more significant scholarship penalties had the forfeiture sanction not been included. So it’s possible the school will get its wins back in exchange for other punishments.
Let me get this straight. Florida State is considering giving up more scholarships in exchange for getting the wins back? Is the record so important to Bowden, Wetherell, and the Florida State community that they are willing to sacrifice future wins and deny potential athletes a free education for a chance at it? I mean, even if they get the wins back it's no guarantee Bowden will get the record. Paterno just signed a three year contract extension while Jimbo Fisher has been promised $5 million if he's not the Florida State head coach by 2011. If I'm a Seminole fan I have to be furious that Wetherell and Bowden are even considering sacrificing the future of the program so one man can leave something for his grandkids.
It's utterly pathetic the way Florida State and Bobby Bowden have handled this whole situation. Paterno may or may not care about the record as much as Bowden does, but I never once heard him give anything but compliments for Bowden when the two began this neck-and-neck battle years ago.
While Bowden will undoubtedly insist the academic scandal never be mentioned when his grandkids are in the house, I guarantee you Paterno doesn't care about the record for his grandkids. If Paterno ever wants to impress his grandchildren all he has to do is walk down Curtin Road just past the Forum on his way to Rec Hall. Stop right between the two and point to the building on the left where giant letters spell out "PATERNO LIBRARY". That's a legacy for an old football coach to be proud of.
Good luck in your appeal, Bobby. You make me sick.