For decades, Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno raced up the leaderboard to become the two winningest head coaches in Division I football history. Paterno ultimately edged Bowden, but it’s hard to argue that Bowden’s legacy will be largely pristine while Paterno will forever be remembered for his rapid downfall in the final year of an otherwise storied life. Now that Paterno has passed away, Bowden doesn’t seem quite so interested in passing judgment on how Paterno did or did not handle things in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, but instead on just paying tribute to one of his longtime colleagues.
Bowden joined 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia with Mike Missanelli to talk about the passing of Joe Paterno, his long race with Paterno for the most wins ever, the legacy of Paterno as both a coach and a man, and to clarify his previous comments about Paterno and how he initially handled the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.
On the passing of Joe Paterno:
“My wife told me he had passed away. I was saddened to hear that. When all of this stuff came up – all of it at one time – I was wondering how in the world he can handle it. It seems like everything hit him at one time. I sure hate it. I mean a guy that had the most illustrious career of any college coach that I know of – there have been some great ones – but none of them had a career like he had. I tried to keep up with him. I couldn’t keep up with him. But, gosh, I just can’t believe he’s gone now.”
On his race with Paterno for the most wins ever:
“I wanted one more year. I was trying to keep up with Joe a little bit. We never discussed the race. To me I was in a race. Joe won more games than Bear Bryant. I came along and won more games than Joe. Joe came along and won more games than me. I was competitive with it. Joe never mentioned it. I don’t even think he cared. Now I know he must have, but he would never say anything.”
On Paterno as a coach and man:
“He had the image of the perfect coach. Joe was one of those guys if there were 50 coaches in a room, and they’re debating something – some of them feel this way, some feel that way, some feel this way – Joe could end that by making a statement because everyone believed in what Joe said. Usually when he spoke that was the end of the question. That’s the impact he had on other coaches. Even on me. Here I am 62 years old (speaking about 20 years ago) and I’m looking up to him. That’s the way I felt about him.”
On Paterno’s legacy:
“Of course Joe not only coached football, he tried to make a man out of you. And tried to teach you values. I think that’s the thing they’ll remember. Now let’s take people that do not know him. All they know is what they’ve heard on the television or on the radio or in the newspapers, yes, they will take the bad part and remember him by that. But that’s not the majority.”
On his previous comments regarding Paterno and how he handled the Sandusky situation:
“Well I can take away from it. I was not quoted correctly on that. I wouldn’t have made a statement like that, as much as I knew Joe. I was making a speech up in South Georgia. Somebody had asked me what did I think about Joe? And I said I feel kind of like what Joe said when Joe said “I wish I would have done more.” So they put in the paper that Bobby said Joe should have done more. Well I wrote Joe a letter and told him that’s not what I said.”