On This Date in Sports: October 5, 1985: Eddie Robinson

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Longtime Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson becomes the winningest coach in NCAA history, as the Tigers beat Prairie View A&M 27-7 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. It is the 324th win topping Paul “Bear” Bryant. Robinson would retire in 1997, with 408 wins. Joe Paterno would top his Division 1 record in 2011. Eddie Robinson still holds the FCS record for wins, as John Gagliardi, a Division 3 coach, has the overall record at 489.

Eddie Robinson was born on February 13, 1919, in Jackson, Louisiana. The son of a sharecropper, Robinson played quarterback at Leland College. He dreamed of becoming a football coach but had little opportunity in the era of Jim Crow. At the age of 22, Eddie Robinson accepted the coaching position at Louisiana Normal School, a segregated black college in northern Louisiana. The school would be renamed Grambling in 1945. At the time, there were few assistants, meaning Eddie Robinson did all the work. Eddie Robinson also coached the Grambling Basketball team from 1943-1956, as the school lacked the funding to have a large staff.

Eddie Robinson helped turn Grambling, later known as Grambling State, a small college powerhouse. During the era of Jim Crow, when many of the top Southern Programs refused to recruit black players, Robinson took advantage by loading his team with talented players that would later go on to play in the NFL. In the 1960s, Grambling became the most famous Black College in large part to the players that went on to play in the NFL. These include Hall of Famers, Buck Buchanan, Willie Brown, Willie Davis, and Charlie Joiner. He also coached Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl.

In 55 seasons as coach at Grambling State, had 45 winning seasons, won 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference Championships, and nine Black College Football National Championships (HCBU). The day he broke the record of Bear Bryant, a crowd of 36,652 were on hand at the Cotton Bowl to salute Eddie Robinson as the Grambling State Tigers beat Prairie View A&M 27-7.  

  

In 1995, Eddie Robinson became the first coach to top 400 wins in college football. However, pressure began to mount to have him retire, as he suffered three consecutive losing seasons. Eddie Robinson stepped down following the 1997 season with a career record of 408-165-15. John Gagliardi would top his record, a longtime coach at Division III St. John’s in Minnesota. Gagliardi retired in 2012 with a record of 489-138-11. His Division 1 record fell in 2011 when Joe Paterno of Penn State won his 409th game before the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia charges tarnished his program. The NCAA initially stripped Penn State of wins, but later reinstated the wins keeping Paterno at 409-136-3.