NCAA football, particularly Division I-A, is one of the most competitive collegiate sports. Many coaches have had winning seasons, but only the greatest are remembered by fans. Bobby Bowden, forty four years after coaching his first college game and after twenty nine years with Florida State, is the winningest coach in NCAA history. His Seminoles were ranked in the Associated Press (AP) Top Five for fourteen consecutive seasons. His 1999 team was the first ever to go from opening game to the championship while maintaining their number one AP ranking the whole time. He is ranked second in most bowl wins. When he took over in 1976, the Seminoles had won a total of only four games in three seasons. His career record with the Seminoles, playing some of the league's toughest teams, is 278-70-4.
Also considered a NCAA coaching great is Joe Paterno. As he prepares for his fortieth year with Penn State, he is in second place for all time victories, only behind Bobby Bowden. He led the Nittany Lions to national championships in 1982 and 1986 and had five unbeaten/untied seasons. Oh, and he is the one Bobby Bowden is chasing for all time bowl wins with a record of 20-10-1.
If NCAA football was a religion in Alabama, Paul “Bear” Bryant would be their messiah. He led the Crimson Tide to six national titles between 1961 and 1979. At the time of his retirement, he was the winningest coach of all time and also held the record for most bowl wins. Bear was known as a stern, no nonsense coach. He once suspended his star quarterback, Joe Namath, causing him to miss the 1964 Sugar Bowl.
But Bowden and Paterno, as great as they are, may never be able to reach the greatness a certain Norwegian achieved while coaching America's most famous Irish-Catholic university. Knute Rockne has been the subject to countless books and even a movie that featured a former president, Ronald Reagan, as his most famous player, George Gipp. Even people that don't know much about football or Notre Dame surely know the line “Win one for the Gipper. ” What Rockne could have accomplished will never be known. He was cut down in his prime, dying in a plane crash at age 42. But in his short thirteen years at Notre Dame, he managed to compile a record of 105-12-5, including six national championships. That is the winningest percentage (.881) of any NCAA football coach ever. He was also created the unstoppable backfield known as the four horsemen that led the Fighting Irish to a 28-2 record. He was dearly loved not only by his players, but fans as well.
Sure, there will be other great coaches in the future of the NCAA. But no one can ever forget these great men or their astonishing accomplishments.
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