Well, there’s nothing to add to the coverage of the scandal surrounding Joe Paterno, so let’s just step back and honor the end of the man’s career by counting of his myriad accomplishments and contributions to the game. He personified the spirit of college football in so many different ways, not the least of which was his stealer track record and pair of national championships. It’s hard to rank them, but we did our best.
9. The Declaration Of The Grand Experiment
While many coaches, if not all, pay lip service to the melding of academics and athletics, Joe Paterno explicitly declared an end he was working toward as he signed on to the head coaching job at Penn State in 1966. As a result over Paterno’s tenure, Penn State has seen a graduation rate for its players of 78%, a marked improvement of the national average of 67%.
He was able to maintain a focus on citizenship and academics, all the while maintaining the level of athletic excellence that Penn State fans have grown accustomed to.
8. His Name Is On The Big-10 Championship Trophy
And not just as a recipient. In 2010, the Big Ten decided to name the trophy the Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy, to be awarded to the conference champion who finds themselves en route to either or the Rose Bowl or the National Championship game. What’s most amazing is that his name was emblazoned on the trophy not only while he was alive, BUT WHILE HE WAS STILL COACHING IN THE CONFERENCE. That’s like the Patriot’s hoisting the Belichick trophy after a Super Bowl win.
7. Quarterback/Cornerback At Brown
Despite playing way back in the dark ages (1947-1950), Paterno STILL holds the school record for career interceptions with 14, tied with Greg Parker. Pretty impressive, especially considering those were the days when the ball would almost never be thrown. It’s hard to imagine Joe Pa as a quick guy, but he sure was.
6. 2002 Stagg Award
This award is not only for the greatest football coach in the college ranks, but in football at all levels. What’s even more remarkable then him receiving this award is the fact that it took him so long to get it. Nonetheless, despite the adoration from so many fans and the media, he can have this award sitting atop his mantle in case he ever needs tangible proof that he is among the greatest to ever coach the game of football.
5. Induction To The College Football Hall Of Fame
He’s by far the most iconic coach playing today, so it was only a matter of time before he crossed the threshold into the College Football Hall of Fame. While he didn’t need the validation by an stretch, especially while he was still coaching, it was a nice gesture to demonstrate that he was a living legend. Not that we needed any reminder.
4. Sportsman of the Year
It’s very rare that a coach receive Sports Illustrated’s highest annual honor, but on the heels of Penn State’s second national championship in five years, the decision to honor Mr. Penn State was a bit of a no-brainer. He exuded class quietly and cleanly all the while tallying up the best record in college football. Not an easy line to walk in the corrupt landscape of the game. Who else could they have given it to?
3. Knocking Off Bowden
In the 2006 Orange Bowl, two loved and storied coaches faced off on a national stage to demonstrate who had the best team (long after both teams and coaches had reached their prime). Well, Paterno emerged triumphant, in the seventh and last meeting between the two iconic coaches. They were the two winningest coaches in college football, and on that January night, Paterno was just a little more winningest.
2. His 2008 Season
After everyone was clamoring for his retirement, Joe Paterno quietly focused on the task at hand in 2008 – leading his team to victory, just as he tried to every year. Only this year, he was a little more successful, having chalked up a record of 11-2 in the face of all the criticism and adversity. Sure, he didn’t take down a title that year, but he shut everyone up, not be lashing out in the press, but by doing what he always did: winning with quiet dignity.
1. Uh, the National Championships
It would be remiss to put Joe Pa’s two national championships, (1982 and 1986) anywhere else on this list. It’s why coaches exist. While Paterno was able to accomplish a lot more than just win a couple trophies during his tenure, this pair of feats is certainly the most quantifiable way of demonstrating that Paterno ranks among the best coaches in history, not only for his contributions to the program and his players, but also in terms of straight W’s and L’s.