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30 Years and Counting: Paterno vs. Bowden has Changed

December 30, 1995

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ The year was 1966.

Joe Paterno was in his first season as head coach at Penn State and Terry Bowden, son of a West Virginia assistant, recalls being a fifth-grader who learned to despise the big, bad Nittany Lions.

Oh, how 30 years have changed his perspective.

Bowden has grown up be a coach himself, leading Auburn to an improbable 20-1-1 record in his first two seasons and an 8-3 mark this year that has the Tigers in Monday’s Outback Bowl against Penn State.

His father, Bobby, is one of the most successful coaches in the nation at Florida State and Paterno is still rolling along at Penn State (8-3), which is making its 26th postseason appearance under the winningest active coach in Division I-A.

``Growing up, Penn State was a very big rivalry in West Virginia,″ Bowden said. ``There were almost two levels of I-A, and Penn State was always seemed like it was at such a distinct advantage.″

He remembers Paterno sending John Cappeletti back into a game to score a fourth touchdown against West Virginia. The day really stood out in Terry’s mind because it was a 62-14 game.

Although his passion for the rivalry never waned, young Bowden came to understand that the Nittany Lions’ domination was tied to a disparity in talent ``so it wasn’t an embarrassment to lose.″

He’d rather not remember the day that as a redshirt running back at West Virginia, he sneaked up to State College, Pa., and was nearly caught trying to paint the closely guarded Nittany Lion Shrine on the Penn State campus.

Youthful pranks, although Bowden described it as a West Virginia tradition, eventually gave way to genuine respect for Paterno and the program he runs.

Shug Jordan, Bear Bryant, Vince Dooley and Charley McClendon were giants of the ’60s and ’70s in the region of the country where Bowden coaches now, but he initially gravitated toward coaching because of guys like his father, Paterno and Bo Schembechler.

``Without getting too mushy, Penn State’s a program that I like to emulate,″ he said, drawing a smile from the Nittany Lions coach, who has 277 career victories _ 19 more than Bowden’s father.

Paterno and Bobby Bowden are close friends. But until recently most of what the 69-year-old coach knew about 40-year-old Terry came from sitting around with the elder Bowden and his wife, talking family.

The Penn State coach spent some time with Terry last year and discovered more that he liked about the young coach, whose first two Auburn teams were prohibited from making bowl appearances because of NCAA violations that occurred under former coach Pat Dye.

``He’s a lot more fun than his old man,″ Paterno said.

Bowden is looking forward to Monday’s matchup if for no other reason than it may be the only opportunity he gets to coach against Paterno _ ``not because he’s not going to be around a long time,″ but because Auburn and Penn State are in different conferences.

And, he’s not concerned about the experience factor.

``It’s kind of a no-lose situation for a young coach like me,″ Bowden said. ``If I can win the game, they say, `You beat the old guy who’s been around and won a lot of games.′ And if you lose, they’ll say, `Well you’ve got a lot of years and the guy had so much experience on you.‴

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