With the new NCAA sanctions against Penn State, Grambling State’s Eddie Robinson once again is the All-Time Wins Leader in Division I Football.
Eddie Robinson is once again the NCAA Football’s All-Time Wins leader (Division I), but the crown is much heavier than when he last wore it.
The now deceased former head coach of Grambling State University finished his career with 408 wins, which stood at second all-time after Joe Paterno’s won his 409th game at Penn State in 2011. That win as well as 111 others were vacated as the NCAA came down hard with sanctions on the university as a result of the Jerry Sandusky Child Abuse Scandal.
What a difference a year makes. This time last year, Joe Paterno was preparing to lead his 44th Penn State team on a quest for a Big-Ten title. A year later, Paterno is dead and his legacy is quickly following suit. The NCAA’s ruling comes just days after Paterno’s statue was removed from in front of Beaver Stadium.
Last week, Mayor Edward Jones of Grambling, LA sent a letter to the NCAA requesting that Paterno be stripped of some of his wins. While it’s doubtful that the sanctions had anything to do with that letter, Robinson is now the Division I Wins Leader for the foreseeable future. The closest active Division I coach is Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, who at 251 wins has a long way to go before catching Robinson.
Some in the HBCU community have been calling on Paterno’s record to be re-evaluated as well. Robinson, who died in 2007, was by all accounts a model citizen. And his coaching record speaks for itself. Forty-five winning seasons. 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) titles. Nine Black College Football National Championships. Not to mention dozens of NFL stars who came through his program, including Willie Davis, Willie Brown and Doug Williams.
One has to wonder, though, how Robinson would have felt about regaining the title under such circumstances. While I’m sure he would have been adamantly against the atrocities committed under the Penn State banner, I seriously doubt he would have been proactive in trying to regain the title at Paterno’s expense.
That’s debatable, but matters little since both Paterno and Robinson are now gone. What they have both left behind is a legacy. Legacies are always for the living, more so than the dead.
Surely many people will see Robinson’s name and decide that his spot on the list deserves an asterisk. Yeah, he’s number one but that’s only because Paterno got robbed, they’ll say. They’ll point to the fact that after integration, his teams competed against an overall lower level of talent than Paterno’s squads, and that Grambling was not in Division I for a good chunk of his coaching career.
Just know that Eddie Robinson earned his spot on the list. It’s not his fault Paterno knew innocent children were being raped and did nothing to stop it, or even enabled the predator to do so. All Robinson did was take a small black school with meager resources and transformed it into a football powerhouse despite his obstacles. He earned that record while he was alive and it would be despicable to deprive him of it in death. It would be a grave mistake to let the poor choices of one man, tarnish the crown of another.