A week ago at this time, I sat down at the computer to do a post about the effort of Penn State fans to rewrite history, regarding their last-play loss to Michigan. But if Lion fans are a little bitter about the way the record books have treated their program, they have good cause. The coming Orange Bowl matchup with Florida State brings attention to one of the most ridiculous of NCAA historical rules--the way career Division I-A wins are tallied for coaches.
The coming coaching duel between Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden is a match between the two winningnest coaches in I-A, as the media reliably informs us. Bowden has 359 wins. Paterno has 353. What the media does not report is that this total includes 30+ wins the Florida State mentor accrued while coaching in I-AA. All of Paterno's wins have come at the college game's highest level.
While I think I-AA wins should be discarded in this tally, there is at least somewhat of an argument for it. But the NCAA gets worse--it declares that I-AA wins only count towards the career total, once a coach has been in I-A for ten years. At that point they become grandfathered in.
How on earth does this make sense? Either count the wins or don't, but suddenly declaring them legit at ten years is a fence-straddle so thorough, it makes John Kerry's posture on Iraq look consistent by comparison.
Because of this rule, the sleeping giant in the race for most career wins is Ohio State's Jim Tressel. Though he's only been in Columbus since 2001, he coached for fifteen years at I-AA Youngstown State. Overall, he's got 175 career wins. Once he gets his ten years in, those all count. He probably won't coach long enough to catch Paterno or Bowden, but this rule will rocket him a lot further up the charts.
The NCAA record book should be amended to have two seperate categories. One can be for Division I wins overall, in which case Bowden is the winningest coach. But those who want to know who's won the most games at the sport's highest level should be able to quickly thumb through the historical record and find out that it's Joseph Vincent Paterno.