How I will remember Bobby Bowden

 

When I heard the news that Bobby Bowden was expected to retire today, I went through a range of emotion.

 My first reaction was to be mad. I had been told over a week ago that not-so-subtle pressure would be put upon him to step down.

Yes, he would be given the option of returning, but in what could only be described as a figurehead role. In short, he would not retain the right to control the staff and the important things that go into being a head coach. The position would be ceremonial. I know the man well enough to believe that he could not be happy with that.

After building the Florida State program into a national powerhouse over 34 years—which included an unprecedented streak of 14 straight years with Top Five finishes—I believed strongly that he had earned the right to dictate the date and the manner of his retirement. This is not the way to treat a legend.

Then I got sad, as I usually do when one of the great ones has to walk away from the game. I will freely admit that I like and respect Bobby Bowden. He’s been good to me in my career. I love college football and recognize that the sport we all enjoy today was built by men like Bobby Bowden.

Florida State’s football stadium looked like a giant erector set when he became coach in 1976. There was little football tradition and the facilities were a joke. Now Doak Campbell Stadium is a palace and Florida State’s athletic complex is more than impressive. Yeah, Florida State did a lot for Bobby Bowden. But he gave a helluva lot more than he got back.

Then I was glad. I have been fortunate to cover some of the greatest coaches in the history of this game: Bryant, Dooley, Spurrier, Dye, Holtz, and now Bowden, just to name a few. They all have their time and, inevitably, that time comes to a close. No one coaches forever or plays forever. None of us gets to do what we do forever so we should enjoy the moments that we do have and in the sport of college football, Bobby Bowden gave us a lot of those moments.

So it appears that Bobby Bowden, who just turned 80 years old in November, is set to walk off the stage a year before he is ready. He won 388 games, which is second in Division I-A only to Joe Paterno. He wanted to retire as college football’s all-time winner. I know he said he didn’t stay awake thinking about it. But the man is competitive. Very competitive. He wanted that record. His players and family wanted it for him even more.

We are still waiting to see if the NCAA is going to strip him of 14 victories as penalty for an academic scandal that he addressed when it was discovered. I said this long before now but that should not happen.

There are so many games and so many stories I will remember when I think of Bobby Bowden. But this story will always be at the top of my list:

On Friday, Sept. 10, 2004 Florida State played at Miami in a game that had been postponed due to Hurricane Frances. The day before Bowden had attended the funeral of his grandson, Bowden Madden, who had been killed in automobile accident related to the Hurricane.

Florida State lost the game, 16-10 in overtime. Those of us who talked to Bowden that night knew how much he was hurting. All of us had a job to do but when you’re talking to a man who just lost a grandson named after him, a football game just doesn’t seem very important. But as always, Bowden answered our questions, even the personal ones about his pain.

When Bowden turned to leave for what was going to be a difficult trip back to Tallahassee, he took off his Florida State cap. He signed his name underneath the bill of the cap and then threw it to Joe Henderson, the fine columnist from the Tampa Tribune.

“Hey, Joe,” Bowden said. “Give that to your grandson.” Then he walked away.

That is how I am going to remember Bobby Bowden.

 

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282 comments Add your comment

F-105 Thunderchief

December 1st, 2009
8:34 am

I hope something bad happens to that booster jackhole who called Bobby out earlier in the season. And, to the school officials who are caving in. Jimbo Fisher, had he any class, would have lead the call to make 2010 a successful last season for Bowden. That he didn’t is a hint at how his tenure will go. He is doomed. Karma’s a %^$*&.

Steve

December 1st, 2009
8:35 am

How I will remember Bobby Bowden:

“We were willing to join the SEC as long as we didn’t have to play Alabama and Auburn in the same year, but the SEC declined.”

L. A. Times, 9/20/90, section C9

Bowden was 71-2 during 1992-2000 against ACC opponents. lol

Carlos Dunlap

December 1st, 2009
8:35 am

I’m done running 10 steps like you asked me coach. I have learned my lesson, I’m sorry. It’s hard as hell running 10 steps while I’m still drunk, you’re punishment is too severe Coach.

SadDawg

December 1st, 2009
8:36 am

When Bobby took over at FSU, I was a teenager in south Georgia, and having been born in Athens when my Dad was at UGA, I was an avid Dawg fan. But Bobby’s teams kept drawing my attention. Not much TV coverage for either school in the mid to late 70s, but listening to both teams on radio, I knew there was a big difference in his and Dooley’s coaching styles. His offenses were wide-open and special teams were really special. It seemed there was a KO return or a punt return for a TD, or a blocked punt or extra point in every game. He took the Seminoles all over the country and feared no team. He disapointed me when he seemed to develope the “win at all costs” attitude beginning in the 90s, basically enrolling common criminals if they were fast enough. Remember the “Free Shoes Univ.”, and “Criminoles” lines from Spurrier? These last few years of trying to outlast Paterno just made him a joke and leaves me sadly shaking my head when someone brings his name up. One thing’s for sure, he changed college football in a big way. He showed us the ball could be moved through the air just as easily as on the ground if you had the cajones, and boy he did…

naganole

December 1st, 2009
8:37 am

F-105 Thunderchief: Bobby was given a chance to come back as head coach with Jimbo doing all the “heavy lifting”, but have his name on the record books with the wins. He refused.

#1Nole

December 1st, 2009
8:38 am

Bobby did this to himself. If he had brought in the best O.C. in the country after Mark Richt went to Ga., instead of promoting his son Jeff to the position, then this Jimbo Fisher “i.e. Coach in Waiting” would have never taken place. The school circumvented to Nepotism policy for Bobby and that was the beginning of the end for the legend. Although Bobby did build the program, he was compensated handsomely and he was given several passes during the various scandals that surrounded the program. As a FSU grad, I have mixed emotions about the events but I think change is necessary because the revenue will continue to dwindle as long as he is overseeing the program!

Reed Hall Rat

December 1st, 2009
8:38 am

Nice work Tony…I enjoy your work.

Gen Neyland

December 1st, 2009
8:39 am

If Coach Bobby Bowden does in fact leave Florida State today, here’s my perspective : In essence, the University owns the football program, not the other way around. No man is bigger than his purpose in life and Bobby’s purpose had been met over the course of years he served FSU. He has both accomplishments to be proud of and tales of woe I won’t address.

HC’s need to heed the Fulmer-Bowden Syndrome. Once infected by a BCS Crystal Football, there’s nowhere to go but down. It’s just a matter of time…

GWJ

December 1st, 2009
8:39 am

FSU mishandled this debacle from the start…..the “coach in waiting” solution was NOT smart. By the way, does FSU really believe that Jimbo is the answer?

lawzoo

December 1st, 2009
8:41 am

Well, whatever………he was no Tommy West.

LAKE OCONEE DAWG

December 1st, 2009
8:42 am

GORDON:
YOU MUST BE DR. ADAMS RIGHT HAND MAN….ADAMS COULD HAVE SET DOWN WITH COACH DOOLEY AND WORKED OUT 1 MORE YEAR, BUT IT WAS NOT TO BE…THAT’S WHY HE IS BOOED EVERYTIME HIS NAME IS ANNOUNCED IN PUBLIC WHERE THE BULLDOG FAITHFUL ARE IN THE HOUSE, AND ALWAYS WILL BE….SHAME ON WETHERELL, YOU BECOME THE FSU VERSION OF DR. ADAMS….JUST 1 MORE YEAR, BUT I GUESS NOT…GOOD LUCK, JIMBO, YOU GOT WHAT YOU WANT, NOW RUN WITH IT, BUT COACH BOWDEN’S SUPPORTERS KNOW YOUR WAYS NOW IF THEY DID NOT PREVIOUSLY AND THEY WILL BE WATCHING YOU CLOSELY….LIKE COACH BOWDEN SHOULD HAVE BEEN WATCHING YOU ALSO…

AUGirl

December 1st, 2009
8:42 am

@Steve…ironically had Bowden signed with SEC he would eventually had gotten his wish when SEC was split in West/East. Too bad. FSU would have been a great team for an all-ready envied SEC conference.

Dan

December 1st, 2009
8:48 am

Bobby Bowden deserved plenty, but not a job-for-life-or-whenever-he-wanted-to-retire. Yes, he did plenty for the FSU program, but it’s a program on a decade-long slide to mediocrity after that glorious 14-year run. He has received millions of dollars, and let’s not forget the statue and the stained-glass “shrine.” Unfortunately, he did not merely replace Richt with incompetent son Jeff, he doggedly retained Jeff long after it was obvious Jeff was not a capable offensive coordinator, and the program began to slide. Bowden brought back Chuck Amato to FSU after Amato’s River-less collpase at NSCU, and has retained Amato despite Amato’s inability to recruit south Florida as he once did so well. Bowden has brought about this sad ending on himself, and it’s a pity. Had he not been so loyal to people who had not properly earned his degree of loyalty, things probably would not have declined as they have. This is a business, and Bobby Bowden wasn’t working for free or minimum wage; he has been handsomely compensated over the years.

beasnole

December 1st, 2009
8:48 am

A sad day… I was there when Mudra was the coach and football was on par with the debate team. He changed things around and pretty quickly at that. Is one of the truly good guys, as a coach and as a man.
I think we have witnessed one of the last coaching dynasties that will ever be allowed to stay on that long and thus be able to transform something from nothing. I guess it was time but thought they would let him do one more year
Its been a pleasure to have been able to see. Go Noles.

MGS - FSU

December 1st, 2009
8:49 am

Thank you Bobby for everything you have done for FSU and college football. The Seminole Nation will never forget you. You are making the right decision today and we thank you!

SadDawg

December 1st, 2009
8:49 am

Jeez, reread the column, In Decatur (7:43), Tony’s speaking of coaches he has “covered”. I think that means coaches he has seen in person coaching a game.

Shug

December 1st, 2009
8:50 am

Bowden stayed a decade too long, and in the end was a joke. The facilities may be nicer than they were in 1976 but the team’s not much better.

collegeballfan

December 1st, 2009
8:50 am

The Bowden I remember most was early on after he took the FSU job. He would play anybody, anywhere at whatever time you suggested. He took his lumps but built one of the great programs in college football history.

Carlos Dunlap

December 1st, 2009
8:51 am

uhhhhh da coach meyers don say I plays dis satrday. he gon investigates whut hapen next week. i tackle peoples and luvs me som white womenz.. piece out

Bubby Cux

December 1st, 2009
8:52 am

This it the problem with all these Good Ol’ Boy programs we have here in the South. You have Bobby Bowden who overstays his welcome and no one wants to hold him accountable because “OH YOU KNOW HE’S JUST OUR GOOD OL’ COACH”.

Hey Bobby Cox, why don’t you take one from Bowden’s playbook here and step down before the Braves waste the game’s top pitching rotation another year.

inside source

December 1st, 2009
8:54 am

Standby for the news.. Kirby Smart is coming to UGA after the SEC championship, an extremely reliable source tells me. The deal is already worked out on paper, they are just keeping it quiet to avoid distractions for Alabama while they prepare for the game this weekend. Word is also that he is bringing one or two blue chip recruits with him too.

KR

December 1st, 2009
8:55 am

Remember, it’s still a job with performance expectations. If Bowden was volunteering his time, then maybe he has the right to dictate his departure. But he was being paid quite handsomely by the State of Florida and they have a right to certain levels of performance for their money. The situation isn’t a whole lot different than the one with Dooley a few years back. Unfortunately, not everyone knows when it’s time to step back and enjoy retirement.

As an outsider looking in, it seemed as though at the end of his career, Bowden developed a case of target fixation. He became focused on the all time wins goal and pretty much lost track of everything else.

If any of you have ever had to take the car keys away from an older relative (for their safety and that of other motorists), you know what kind of decision FSU has to make.

The Ghost of Bear Bryant

December 1st, 2009
8:55 am

If, in fact, it turns out that they force him out and not allow him a final year…

…then may FSU go 0 and 12 next year.

Karma.

IheartBobby

December 1st, 2009
8:57 am

Bobby Bowden was truly a legend, us Nole fans will always honor him and remember him. If the rumors are true (which I hope they are not), today will be a sad day in college football. Farewell, coach Bowden, you will be missed, always loved and never forgotten!

Kirby Smart

December 1st, 2009
8:58 am

BULL FOCKING SHEEOT INSIDE SOURCE! I’d rather eat sheeot and die than go back to that hell hole known as Athens.

SOOHSO

December 1st, 2009
8:58 am

Bobby Bowden changed football from the boring “three yards and a cloud of dust” to the exciting game it is today. He is the greatest of all.

SadDawg

December 1st, 2009
9:00 am

Truth (7:52), yeah Spurrier was not a gracious winner or loser. But he also never cheated and never recruited players with character problems, and, oh, he could by-God win! I remember him saying in an interview that if UGA had offered him the job when Dooley retired, he would have jumped on it. UGA didn’t and the next year, he left Duke for UF. That made me nauseous for several years, wondering where UGA’s program would have been with the Evil Genious at the controls in stead of Goff and Donnan…

It Is Time

December 1st, 2009
9:01 am

We love him. We are: relieved to see him go; sad to see him go; sad it came to this; outraged by his wife’s “let them eat cake” comments; glad that this seems to be ending; wishing Coach the best. Maybe now all those signed photos of him from the 90’s will go back up on fans’walls around Tally.

crusher dawg

December 1st, 2009
9:03 am

Thanks for the comments. Coach Bowden did a lot for the game of football. He will always be termed as one of the elite coaches. Thanks for the article.

shards1967

December 1st, 2009
9:04 am

As a college student here in Atlanta in the late 60s and early 70s, I recall his WVA Mountaniers football teams in the old Peach Bowl maybe two or three times and how they were really fast and played a different style of football. He was always humble, funny and interesting. Old time coach he was and a leader of young men.

Later, he was the same at FSU and really developed them into a brand name football team from nothing, nada, no name and a general Southern laughing stock. He always had one or two national powerhouse teams on his schedule where he could pre game poor mouth then , tee it up. Fun stuff and I am a Dawg, born and bred. My older brother is a grad of FSU and he remembers the PRE Bobby days for sure. They defeated UGA in like 66, before Bobby arrived. UGA tied them in the Music City in mid 80s. Dooley vs Bobby.

Great job Bobby !!! You are one of a kind, sir.

inside source is full of it

December 1st, 2009
9:05 am

Yeah, and Obama is about to get kicked out of the White House because he was born in Etheopia. I don’t believe in fairy tales. Kirby Smart’s next job will be a head coaching job.

JB

December 1st, 2009
9:05 am

Should of retired 4 years or so ago…..great guy………been great for the game……..a real southern gentleman, but did the big money people and FSU a disservice the last 2-3 years. In the old days ( 25-30 years ago) they would of just kicked him upstairs as AD…….Too big of business to do that anymore…..He’s a legend, a hall of famer, but has really tainted FSU the last 4 or 5 years . Those people are starving to win again…I don’t envy Jimbo….These folks will not wait 2-3 years……Good luck FSU…….Go Dawgs……….PS: If Jimbo flops and Mark Richt rights the ship in Athens the next 2-3 years, Mark will probably be the next head coach at FSU…….IMHO………..

SadDawg

December 1st, 2009
9:06 am

Amen to that, Bubby Cux!!

tom

December 1st, 2009
9:11 am

Hey War Jacket: check your facts you moron. Dooley won 200 ball games in the SEC. Quick, list all the ones that have done that. Oh yeah, you are a moron. You can’t. Get over your biases and respect the people that deserve it. I am a DAWG fan but I respect Dodd.

Dr. R

December 1st, 2009
9:12 am

College football has become a sport in which success is naturally fleeting, yet fans and boosers still expect constant success. The days of Bear Bryan and Darryl Royal winning every year are over. The high level of competition from so many schools makes it impossible for one program to hoard the best high school players anymore, who would prefer to go to a Boise State or a Toledo and play than sit on the fourth string at Alabama. As a result, new coaches have a short window of success, and the great old coaches like Bowden and Paterno are now just average. Richt, Freidgen, Weis … these guys were the toast of the town their first few years. But as soon as the success fades a little, their fans can’t wait to get rid of them. Pete Carroll and Bob Stoops are about to go through it now. Expectations haven’t adjusted to this modern reality, so schools are dstined to run through coaches on a regular basis unless their administrations resist the pressure and stick with a good coach during tough times, as some (a few) pro teams do. You watch, a couple of years from now Florida will be tired of Urban Meyer and Saban will start getting happy feet again as soon as the Tide goes 8-3. There is no sense of proportion in this “sport.”

Andre "Pulpwood" Smith

December 1st, 2009
9:12 am

Nice job, Tony. Coach Bowden seems for all the world to be a very good man.

I do have one question, though; when you listed the great coaches you’ve covered, how could you omit the Great Adjuster, the Greatest Coach in the History of Western Civilization, the Super Genius Paul Johnson?

geoffdaddy

December 1st, 2009
9:13 am

Tony, you nailed the Auburn – Alabama game. All those Chris Todd interceptions gave Bama the game, and Javier with two big TDs, awesome.

JB

December 1st, 2009
9:13 am

Me thinks Kirby would rather work for Saban than Richt to improve his chances of getting the prize, which is a 5 year, 15 million dollar HC contract……Coming hope because mama is calling is old school crap. He wants the big job and contract. Who would you hitch your wagon to if you were this close? Too much “down side’ coming home to coach under Richt. He’s learning and working for a guy who “GET’S IT” !!!!!!! Go DAWGS……………..

DB

December 1st, 2009
9:13 am

Thank you for a lovely article. Bobby Bowden is revered in Tallahassee and throughout the country as a coach that created a football tradition and as an all-around good guy. I’m sure the record of his beloved Seminoles has been a source of pain to him in the last few years, but in a sense, it’s sorta like having to take the car keys away from Grandpa when he starts driving the truck into mailboxes.

Thank you, Bobby, for years and years of FSU football.

gt

December 1st, 2009
9:13 am

Mr Bowden was a great coach, an inspiration and a class act. He qwas not perfect- no one is. He created FSU. So many coaches who are great are one dimensional- like an idiot savant. Football only. It is a game. Great people use their position to help people and causes. They are not disrespectful They are loyal.

Dr. R

December 1st, 2009
9:15 am

I meant to write “boosters” instead of “boosers,” but that pretty much still fits.

JB

December 1st, 2009
9:15 am

That’s coming home…….not hope…….

ckgator

December 1st, 2009
9:17 am

Paterno wins!

nolefan04

December 1st, 2009
9:20 am

It is a very sad day today in Seminole Nation! To see the man who built this program into what it is today leave is so sad! Thank you Bobby Bowden for all you have done for Florida State you will truly be missed and we will never forget you! No true Seminole fan is happy to see you go! You are Florida State and to push you out before you time deeply saddens me! Since I was a little girl my Granddaddy took me to the games and I have grown to love and respect you. You are a wonderful Godly man and Florida State will not be the same without you.

And to Florida State Athletics watch out KARMA SUCKS!!!

Lane Kiffin

December 1st, 2009
9:20 am

So Urban, show me how to properly punish athletes who break the law. I like to lead by example.

Carlos Dunlap

December 1st, 2009
9:22 am

Anybody know where I can get me some licker this early in the AM?

Jeff

December 1st, 2009
9:23 am

Ok Barnhart- now an article about Bobby. Still mum on the UGA win???? What a jerk

T B

December 1st, 2009
9:23 am

You know the old saying but it back like you found it. Well had FSU let Bobby continue he would have did just that.

Urban Meyer

December 1st, 2009
9:26 am

Carlos is just misunderstood. He was helping an alcoholic friend by drinking his Colt 45’s. On his way walking home, Carlos was helping a motorist by watching his car while he went to get some gas. Carlos is a total victim of circumstance – not to be confused with a victim of Tebow’s circumcison.

T B

December 1st, 2009
9:27 am

Jeff Guess what? Nobody cares that Georgia beat Tech.