Eddie Robinson, who won 408 games in 55 years at Grambling State, again bolted atop the Division I football coaches all-time wins list when the NCAA vacated 111 of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno’s victories.
Robinson’s son, Eddie Robinson Jr., speaking on behalf of his family, said they respected the NCAA’s decision to strip Paterno of his victories, but they didn’t agree with it.
“If I was a player and I played at Penn State during that era, and I know we didn’t play any ineligible players, I might ask, ‘Hey, what’s that got to do with me?’ ” Robinson Jr. said to www.philly.com. “My heart really goes out to the families of the victims and to Joe Paterno’s family, too. . . . To me, it’s a lose-lose situation. I don’t know if I’m saying the right things, but I’m saying what’s in my heart. I keep going back to the players themselves. They didn’t know anything about this. I’m out there playing my heart out for four years. I got a busted knee, busted shoulder, whatever. I’m asking, ‘What that got to do with me?’ ”
Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden also moved up the list with the NCAA’s decision. Bowden, who retired in 2009 with 377 victories after himself vacating 12 wins because of NCAA sanctions for playing academically ineligible players, found himself at times in a back-and-forth race with Paterno for the most wins in Football Bowl Subdivision history. In 2003, he passed Paterno on the list, only to later slide back. He now ranks first all-time among FBS coaches.
“I don’t want people thinking I am glad that happened so I can do this,” Bowden told the Associated Press. “All of the things that have happened aren’t worth it – not worth it at all.”
Paterno earned what was then his 409th victory, a 10-7 decision over Illinois, moving one ahead of Robinson. At Beaver Stadium, signs congratulating Paterno propped up, and the university broadcasted the postgame news conference for fans still waiting in their seats.
“It really is something I’m very proud of, to be associated with Eddie Robinson,” Paterno said at the time. “Something like this means a lot to me, an awful lot.”
One week later, former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested, and the Penn State board of trustees then fired Paterno.