Monday, November 19, 2007

The Bowden Win Record Fraud

Bobby Bowden is a lot of things but despite what his bio says, there's one thing he isn't. And that's the winningest coach in college football history. That's not an opinion, it's a fact according to college football historians Bob Boyles and Paul Guido. In their book, 50 Years of College Football: A Modern History of America's Most Colorful Sport, Boyles and Guido explain (this analysis was done prior to the 2007 season):

There are three methods to determine which coach has the most victories in college football history, and Bowden is first in none of them...there is simply no way Bowden is number one in wins. For reasons never explained by the NCAA, Bowden is credited with 31 victories from his four years (1959-1962) as head coach at his alma mater, Howard College of Birmingham, Ala. The partition of NCAA football in those years was in university and college divisions. The university division included the major powers and many of the of the Division I-AA we know today, such as Furman, Jackson State, Lehigh, Montana, Rhode Island and Yale. Howard, later renamed Samford, and upgraded its football to I-AA, was the equivalent of Division II and played schools that would be II or III today such as Maryville, Sewanee, and Millsaps. Here are the three ways to determine the top winner with total wins listed:
Include all divisions in college football:

1. John Gagliardi, Carroll (Montana), St. John's (Minnesota): 443

2. Eddie Robinson, Grambling : 408

3. Bobby Bowden, Howard, West Virginia, Florida State: 366

Include only Divisions 1-A and 1-AA:

1. Eddie Robinson, Grambling : 408

2. Bobby Bowden, Howard, West Virginia, Florida State: 366

3. Joe Paterno, Penn State: 363

Include only Division 1-A

1. Joe Paterno, Penn State: 363

2. Bobby Bowden, West Virginia, [Florida State]: 335

3. Bear Bryant, Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Alabama: 335

11 comments:

NoleCC said...

I believe Bowden would tell you that Robinson's record is the all time great one.

Henry Gomez said...

I honestly think if you are going to look at this record you have to say the first way, looking at all divisions of college football, is the best. Gagliardi gets the nod. It's just hard since schools move divisions and the divisions themselves have changed. But one thing is certain, you have to aplly the standard equally. You can't apply wins from 1AA to one coach who has primarily coached 1A and not count the 1AA wins of coaches who primarily coached in 1AA.

KG said...

Yeah, I'm not sure when this book came out but the Penn State folks have been bitching about this for years. Not because they care about Robinson or the others, of course, but rather to prove that JoePa is the greatest coach to ever walk the earth and second only to God himself. And even then a game between Paterno and God would probably go into overtime.

Anonymous said...

kg,
hilarious...JoePa and Bobby Bowden, at least Lloyd Carr knew when it was time to step down. You'd think JoePa might get a clue and now especially if Terrell Pryor leaves the state to play in the SEC next year.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you, or anyone, has ever researched what the stats are for "wins v. 1A teams". I've always wondered what the Paterno and Bowden numbers would look like if you took away the 1-AA (and below) wins?

Henry Gomez said...

My guess is that it would be comparable. All big schools play Div. 1AA schools from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that exactly what the 3rd list is? Wins vs. 1-A only?

Henry Gomez said...

Anon #2,

No, the third list is wins while coaching at a D1A school, what Anon #1 is talking about is excluding wins over D1AA opponents.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 'Nole alumnus who caught this link on an ESPN board, and the article makes accurate and valid points. Not that it matters, but I think the word "fraud" is a little strong, and contrary to the authors I will provide a valid metric by which Bowden is the winningest coach:

Division 1A wins since its creation in 1978:

1. Bowden, 269
2. Paterno, 249

I see it like this. Sewannee, Tulane and Georgia Tech were all charter members of the SEC that have since departed. I'm betting that the conference still recognizes current SEC member team games against those former conference teams as valid, and the wins as well. If you disallow the wins, wouldn't that mean it'd be appropriate to recount records from previous years to see if those changes had any effect on who ultimately won the conference title? Try telling, say, an Alabama fan that two of their conference titles are no longer valid because their wins against the previously mentioned teams have been disallowed and see what happens.

That being said, I could care less who's tagged with the "most wins ever" title; you can give it to Paterno and it doesn't diminish Bowden one bit, or vice-versa. Do people at FSU and elsewhere twist these and other statistics to suit their own ends? Of course. But you've all heard the one about the man who drowned in a river that statistically averaged a depth of only six inches. For better or worse, without context statistics mean nothing, and no context in the world will change the fact that both of these coaches have won a hell of a lot of games.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Ok I'll accept that if the announcers give that caveat every time they say he's the winningest coach and also if they mention who the winningest coach is on Saturday's that were lunar eclipses.

I work in an advertising agency and we get called on by radio station ad sales reps. Our big joke in the agencies that every station is number one in at least one demographic in some daypart. 50-55 year olds between 1 and 3 AM? We've got you covered.

Anonymous said...

...and I'm a Science Teacher, and if there's one thing I know about conclusions based on data it's that there are always going to be statistical variables. This is a perfect example, since there are clearly a number of ways to count this (four of which have been enumerated in the original article and in previous posts).

One thing I do agree with is that Gagliardi is the all-time winningest, hands-down. That being said, anything beyond that can be rightfully debated until the end of time (or at least until someone comes along and wins 444).

A final note, though -- the NCAA comes down on the side of Bowden as having most wins among FBS coaches (refer to p. 381 in the record book). Although, technically, couldn't you make the case for that honor to be split amongst Les Miles, June Jones, Gary Pinkel and Mark Mangino -- all 12-game winners last year -- since the FBS itself wasn't "officially" designated until a year ago?

Oh well..back to the drawing board...