Paterno and Bowden to receive National Football Foundation's highest honor

May 26, 2006

University Park, Pa. -- Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden's special night in December just got even better.

The legendary coaches last week received the news they will be inducted into the National Football Foundation's College Hall of Fame in December. The NFF today announced that Paterno and Bowden will receive the Foundation's highest and most prestigious honor -- the Gold Medal -- at the 49th Annual Hall of Fame Dinner. The gala event will be held December 5 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

The Gold Medal has been awarded annually since 1958 and recognizes an outstanding American who has demonstrated integrity and honesty, achieved significant career success and has reflected the basic values of those who have excelled in amateur sport, particularly football.

Paterno and Bowden will become the 49th and 50th recipients of the Gold Medal, which has been presented to seven U.S. Presidents, four U.S. Generals, three U.S. Admirals, one U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 25 Corporate CEOs and Chairmen, John Wayne and Jackie Robinson.

Presidents Dwight Eisenhower (1958), Herbert Hoover (1960) John F. Kennedy (1961), Richard Nixon (1969), Ronald Reagan (1971), Gerald Ford (1972) and George H.W. Bush (1991) are previous Gold Medal recipients. Bush received his honor the same night Paterno was presented the Foundation's Distinguished American Award 15 years ago.

"To be honored in this way is the epitome of anybody's life," stated Paterno, who will become the 21st member of the Penn State Football family to gain induction into the Hall of Fame. "To be recognized with the greatest award that a great organization can give after being involved in the game of football since I was 12-13 years old and now 79…so many good things have happened to us this year. I'm really pleased to be able to go into the Hall of Fame and to receive the Gold Medal from the Hall of Fame with Bobby ... Bobby has been a wonderful coach, person and family guy and a good, good friend. It's going to be fun to go to New York with Bobby and Ann and their kids and Sue and our kids.

"Hopefully it's symbolic of what college football should be…the efforts that Bobby and I have put into it to make it a meaningful experience for young people. When you get recognized as we have, I'm a little overwhelmed," Paterno added.

"It's a great privilege to go in with Joe Paterno, who I have so much respect and love for," said Bowden.

"The awards committee selected Coaches Bowden and Paterno for our highest honor because of their contributions to the coaching profession and their impact on the lives of countless of young men," said Bob Mulcahy, chairman of the NFF Awards Committee. "Bowden and Paterno are unequalled in molding football players into tomorrow's leaders, which is our central mission. Their legacies will be felt for years to come."

Three of the four most successful coaches in college football history will enter the Hall of Fame on the same night, as Paterno, Bowden and St. John's (Minn.) mentor John Gagliardi will be inducted. Gagliardi has been a head coach since 1949 and is tops among all NCAA coaches in victories with a 432-118-11 record. Legendary Grambling coach Eddie Robinson is second with 408 wins, followed by Bowden (359-107-4) and Paterno (354-117-3).

In his 41st year as head coach, Paterno will join 16 former Penn State players and four Nittany Lion coaches. The most recent Penn Stater so honored was guard Keith Dorney last December. Running back Lydell Mitchell was inducted in 2004, giving the Nittany Lions a Hall of Fame honoree three consecutive years. Seven of the Hall of Fame players were coached by Paterno: John Cappelletti, Jack Ham, Ted Kwalick, Dennis Onkotz, Mike Reid, Dorney and Mitchell.

Paterno's illustrious career will reach another milestone during the 2006 season, as he joins another college football legend, Amos Alonzo Stagg, as the only major college coaches to serve more than 40 years at one institution. Stagg was a head coach for 57 years, including 41 at the University of Chicago (1892-1932).

Paterno is second in all-time victories among major college coaches and fourth in wins across all four NCAA divisions. A member of the Penn State coaching staff since 1950 (630 games), he owns a 354-117-3 (75.0) career record and has been selected the AFCA Coach of the Year an unprecedented five times, including last year. He ranks No. 6 in winning percentage among active Division I-A coaches that have been a head coach a minimum of 10 years.

Paterno has led Penn State to national championships in 1982 and '86 and five unbeaten and untied seasons (1968, '69, '73, '86, '94). He is the all-time leader in bowl appearances (32) and victories (21-10-1 record) and has guided the Nittany Lions to 16 appearances in one of the four games that comprise the Bowl Championship Series, earning a 12-4 record.

A 1950 graduate of Brown University, Paterno has produced more than 300 NFL players, 71 first team All-Americans, 32 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Americans (24 first team), 14 National Football Foundation Hall of Fame Scholar Athletes and 18 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners during his legendary career. During the 2005 season, senior defensive end Tamba Hali was a consensus All-American and junior linebacker Paul Posluszny was a consensus All-American and a first team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American, as Paterno led the Lions to an 11-1 record and captured the Big Ten and FedEx Orange Bowl titles.

A member of the Nittany Lions' coaching staff spanning the administrations of 11 U.S. presidents (starting with Harry Truman), Paterno has seen 775 head coaching changes among Division I-A programs, an average of more than six changes per I-A institution, since becoming head coach in 1966!

Paterno and his wife, Sue, have contributed more than $4 million to Penn State for several academic and athletic building projects and to endow scholarships and faculty positions. The have five children, all of whom are Penn State graduates, and 15 grandchildren.

In addition to the Gold Medal, the National Football Foundation announced its other major award recipients today:

Distinguished American Award
Pat Tillman (posthumously); Arizona State University, Arizona Cardinals and U.S. War Hero

Outstanding Contribution to Amatuer Football Award
ESPN's College GameDay

John L. Toner Award
DeLoss Dodds; Director of Athletics, University of Texas

Outstanding Football Official Award
Butch Lambert, Sr. (posthumously) & Butch Lambert, Jr.
Long-time SEC father-son officiating tandem

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009