Use whatever criteria you like. Consider longevity, or don't. Base your choice on success this decade, or pay more attention to what happened 20 years ago. Are graduation rates important? How about money raised for the school?
Take anything or everything into account and decide for yourself: Who is the better head coach, Penn State's Joe Paterno or Ohio State's Jim Tressel?
It's not an easy choice. And if it is an easy choice for you -- oh, it has to be JoePa, right? -- then you probably haven't looked hard enough at Tressel's accomplishments.
Sure, Paterno is a legend, an icon in college football who has more wins than any coach in Division I-A history.
But if you just look at this decade and base your opinion on that, it's nearly impossible to pick Paterno over Tressel.
Ohio State won the national championship in 2002 under Tressel, and he led the Buckeyes to the BCS title game in 2006 and '07. Tressel also won four Division I-AA national titles in his 15 seasons at Youngstown State.
JoePa vs. Tressel
2 Division I-A national titles (1982, '86)
Career record: 391-128-3, all at Penn State
Most wins in Division I-A history
Five undefeated seasons (1968, '69, '73, '86, '94)
44th season as head coach at PSU
Bowl record: 23-11-1; New Year's bowl record: 16-7
Most bowl wins in history
Record this decade: 74-45
2008 graduation rate: 78 percent (tied for 9th nationally)
1 Division I-A national title (2002)
Lost in national title game in 2006 and '07
4 Division I-AA national titles at Youngstown State (1991, '93, '94, '97)
Four consecutive Big Ten titles (2005-08)
Career record: 225-78-2; 90-21 at Ohio State
Bowl record: 4-4
Record vs. rival Michigan: 7-1
Record this decade (at Ohio State only): 90-21
2008 graduation rate: 52 percent (58th nationally)
Paterno hasn't won a national title since 1986, nor has he played in a championship game since the adoption of the BCS system in 1998. Of course, JoePa has been robbed of at least one (1994) and possibly more national titles by pollsters after undefeated seasons.
Before we get too far into the discussion, I'll go ahead and reveal my choice is Paterno. I do place a lot of emphasis on longevity, and no coach in history has enjoyed more success over a longer period of time than JoePa.
He had at least one undefeated season in each decade from the 1960s through the '90s, and he just missed one in 2005 when the Lions went 11-1.
It shows Paterno has understood how to adapt to the ever-changing world of college football and continue to win at a high level.
Now, as I mentioned, longevity plays a key role in my choice of Paterno.
But if the choice had to be made in a "what have you done for me lately" world, it's not even remotely close.
Tressel would win hands down.
The beauty of the question is that everybody, depending on whatever criteria is deemed more important, can come up with an answer for different reasons.
Maybe you want to base your choice on which coach you would pick if you were starting a program right now. That criteria clearly would favor Tressel, who at 56 may coach another 15-20 years, while Paterno turns 83 next month.
All coaches have great respect for Paterno, and he in turn also has great respect for Tressel.
"Jim has done a heck of a job everywhere he's been," JoePa said. "He did a heck of a job at Youngstown State, won that division championship several years, done a heck of a job at Ohio State."
Paterno wouldn't bite on a question about comparing his coaching style to Tressel's. That's the part that's most interesting since, if you analyze both closely, there's really not a lot of difference between the two.
Paterno has built his career on tough, physical defense and controlling the tempo with a strong, grind-it-out running game.
Ditto for Tressel.
Regardless of which one you pick, clearly both coaches have been tremendous throughout their careers. Paterno already is in the College Football Hall of Fame, while Tressel will be there someday.
So depending on the criteria you use, either choice can ultimately be deemed correct.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.