Once again the names of Joe Paterno and – especially – Bobby Bowden are in the news because of speculation about their coaching tenures at Penn State and Florida State, respectively. Regardless of the subplots, there’s a prevalent feeling that two such highly successful coaches are uniquely qualified to call their own shots when it ultimately comes to retiring.
“It’s their call,” goes the rationale. “They’ve earned it.” Bowden, 78, and Paterno, 81, are numbers 1 and 2 in all-time wins at the major college level.
However understandable and well-intentioned, such thinking is simply wrong headed. However legendary or iconic, Bowden and Paterno are still just football coaches, albeit very special ones.
If anybody on a university campus is going to call his own shot, it should be the researcher who cures a disease or the distinguished professor who wins a Nobel Prize. But not a long-tenured football coach. Even if his name is Paterno or Bowden.