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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Grambling Wants NCAA To Strip Paterno's Wins, Give Eddie Robinson The Record Again

Illustration for article titled Grambling Wants NCAA To Strip Paterno's Wins, Give Eddie Robinson The Record Again

In October, a 10-7 win over Illinois gave Joe Paterno his 409th career victory, passing Grambling State's Eddie Robinson for the most all-time D1 coaching wins. A week later, Jerry Sandusky was arrested, Paterno was fired, and Penn State football stopped mattering for a while. But it still matters to some in the town of Grambling, La., where a pair of politicians have reached out to the NCAA pleading with them to vacate some of Penn State's wins, returning the record to Robinson.


Grambling's mayor and city attorney (not any representatives of the university) have written a three-page letter to the NCAA, asking them to consider the ramifications of Paterno owning the record:

"Coach Paterno has passed and I do have sympathy for his family. We think coach Robinson should get his record back. It would be good for the city and good for the university. Who wants to be reminded of (the Penn State scandal) when they think of the record?"

Beyond the emotional appeal, the letter cites the NCAA's Constitution, items 2.4 ("The Principle of Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct") and 6.4 ("Responsibility for Actions of Outside Entities"). Those are very generally worded, and probably don't hold much water. It's a hard argument that Penn State's on-field performance was tainted in any way. And the NCAA's still deciding if this is even a football issue in the first place—don't expect them to get even more micro, and look at vacating wins.

More than any argument from bylaws, it's pointless. As HBCU Digest writes, a change in the wins record is "not something that will make Paterno more tolerable as a sports figure or Robinson himself more of a hero." Let Paterno have it. It'll be impossible to think about him setting it without remembering what happened the next week—impossible to separate Paterno's achievements from his failures. That sounds about fair to me.