Joe Paterno is the longtime coach of Penn State Nittany Lions and has become synonymous with the school, the town and the region. Prior to the 2009 college football season, JoePa, as he is known, was 82 years old. With a mid-December birthday he will be 83 by the team Penn State gets to their bowl game for the season.
Joe Paterno: Winningest Head Coach in Division I History
JoePa has 383 wins entering the 2009 NCAA football season, and sports a 383-127-3 record all-time. In bowl games, Paterno is 23-11-1. His won total is the most ever in Division I college football, now known as the football bowl subdivision. (The winningest NCAA football coach of all time regardless of division is actually John Gagliardi, with 461 and counting, who spent almost all of his time at Division III St. John’s College. He is followed by Eddie Robinson, the revered former coach of Grambling State with 408).
He is only one win ahead of Florida State’s Bobby Bowden who has 382 career wins. However, Bowden will likely be forfeiting 14 of his wins following NCAA sanctions, leaving Paterno in command of the all-time and active leadership spots.
Joe Paterno at Penn State
The 2009 college football season will be Joe Paterno’s 60th year at Penn State University, and 43rd as head coach. He joined the staff as an assistant coach following his graduation from Brown University in 1950. In 43 years as a head coach he has had 37 wining seasons. Joe Paterno has won two national championships at Penn State, in the 982 and 1986 seasons. Following the 2008 season he signed another contract extension, which would carry his tenure through the 2011 season.
With JoePa getting up in age he has come under heavy media fire. This was particularly true during the stretch from 2000 to 2004 when Penn State had four losing seasons out of five years. During this time there were “fire Joe Paterno” websites and other calls for his removal as the head coach of Penn State.
However, in 2005 the team went 11-1, won the Big Ten and defeated Bowden’s Florida State team in the Orange Bowl. Since then they have remained competitive, tying for first in the Big Ten in 2008 and finishing the year with an 11-2 record.
Paterno has at times also become somewhat of a running media joke. A famous clip of him dancing/cheering/doing something unrecognizable at a pep rally made all of the rounds several years ago. Since, his press conferences have been known for their sound bites, with Paterno ranting on anything and everything modern and trendy such as Twitter, for instance.
Joe Paterno and Penn State in 2009
Penn State enters the 2009 college football season as one of the preseason top 10. They have a high powered offensive attack and as always, a defense anchored by great linebackers (Penn State is known has become known as Linebacker U for a reason under JoePa). In a Big 10 that isn’t particularly deep, Penn State will likely battle Ohio State for the conference title, and the automatic BCS bowl bid.
Sources: Penn State Official Athletic Site