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.

 

 Please follow me on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/MrCFB

282 comments Add your comment

Atlanta Nole

December 1st, 2009
9:27 am

Sad to see Bobby go. I think he should have been given one last season but he did not want a farewell tour which is what it would have been. Bowden was a real Southern gentleman and he will be missed! I hope Fisher can improve the defense like he did with the offense and that FSU can rise up from it’s 6-6 season.

mike avery

December 1st, 2009
9:28 am

I am a fla st alum and we are not terrible people that forced a legend out it has been time to go for awhile and noone had the guts to do it. if this had not happened now then it would have gone on forever

ckgator

December 1st, 2009
9:28 am

As a Gator, the thing l admire most about BB was his charm and skills at public speaking. His presentation on a Peter Warrick touchdown play years ago was classic. Also, he’s a WWII buff as am I.

Lots of victories and championships but past that, the man made a lot of questionable decisions over the years. And his program has had more than one black eye – the cheating scandal was the least of it. He has been the ultimate “teflon-Don.”

Still, hate to see him go in this fashion.

T B

December 1st, 2009
9:28 am

Jeff guess what? Tony hasn’t written about Georgia’s win over Tech because nobody cares.

ckgator

December 1st, 2009
9:29 am

“Words speak louder than actions.”

-Lane Kiffin

im4bama

December 1st, 2009
9:31 am

I for one am sad about this day. I am a huge fan of Bobby Bowden and admire him for the man that he is and the great coach that he is. I hate that he will not surpass Joe Pa for most wins. The man deserved one more year but he should have been willing to bend to allow the man taking over have more control (staff and recruiting).

You will be missed by many Bobby!

cantondawg

December 1st, 2009
9:32 am

I believe that Florida State made the right decision. They have been holding on for the past 5 years hoping that this man would make the right decision himself. Unfortunately, he would not and they had to make if for him. For goodness sakes, the man is 80 years old and should retire. Why would the administration want to waste a season just for a farewell tour.

Coach O

December 1st, 2009
9:33 am

The King is dead — long live the King.

Tony Adams

December 1st, 2009
9:35 am

Coach Bowden was more than a football coach. Nobody ever mentions that he was the baseball coach at South Georgia College and won the Junior College State Championship in baseball in 1957. He is what you see and hear. I was on that team and I approve this message.

redandblack80

December 1st, 2009
9:35 am

Bobby was a great coach,I think he was trying to reach the 400 wins mark,only to be let down by his assistant coaches.Mark Richt was Bobby’s claim to stardom,his trophy,his proof that he was a great coach.Im glad we have Mark Richt at Georgia now,though I hope Mark doesnt follow in Bobby’s footsteps and let Ga down,due to his choices of assistant coaches.Bobby Bowden-I wish you had reached 400 wins before you had retired,I think you would have,if it werent for your son.I will miss you as head coach of FSU,Hold your head up Bobby, for you were the best thing that “EVER” happened to FSU…………..LIVE LONG my friend and may God continue to shine on you……I never met you,but I wish I had.

Matt the Brave

December 1st, 2009
9:37 am

I hope that Jimbo Fisher knows what he’s getting into. I’ve said it for years, the person who follows a legend has the hardest job in the world. Look at Denver or Miami in the NFL. They STILL look at Marino and Elway as examples of what their QB should be. For coaches, look at UGA. We still compare our coaches to Dooley, and even to Wally Butts! I would not want to be in his shoes right now, he’s probably at about a 90% chance to fail miserably.

ACC SUCKS

December 1st, 2009
9:37 am

Everyone keeps saying Bobby wasn’t scared to play anybody. Two points when your building a program thats what you do, second when you play a conference schedule with teams likes of Duke, N C, NC State, Ga Tech, Virgina, and Wake ect. you can afford and should play a tough out of conference schedule

RollTurd

December 1st, 2009
9:37 am

One can only imagine what his won/loss record would have been if Alabama had picked him instead of Ray Perkins….typical “Bam’er”…!!!

Coach O

December 1st, 2009
9:37 am

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.

Kirby might well return to Georgia. Lord knows they need some help. If he does, then he won’t be dragging any Alabama recruits along with him. He’s not that kind of low-life coach. Besides, blue chip players don’t commit to Alabama in order to play for Kirby Smart.

GoVols

December 1st, 2009
9:39 am

Where does this mindset originate that a coach “earns” the right to determine his departure? Once FSU paid off Bobby’s son to leave the university because Daddy wouldn’t fire him I felt the school and he were even. How many other coordinators get that kind of treatment. And his legacy is the ONLY reason why he hasn’t been forced out prior to now. That team that played UF on Saturday wasn’t even competitive.

Jimbo, Joker, Muschamp etc. IS DUMB

December 1st, 2009
9:40 am

That new “Coach in Waiting” trend is stupid.
It sure did’nt help with the Bobby Bowden retirement.
I think it is an insult to the Head Coach to have a so called “Coach in Waiting” hanging around.
A person is either a Head Coach or an Assistant Coach, no in between silly “Coach in Waiting” should be allowed.
Whoever came up with the goofy idea should be kicked out the door.

Dawg Fan

December 1st, 2009
9:42 am

Barnhart,

Nice Calls…do you also predict the weather???

Valdosta Dawg

December 1st, 2009
9:43 am

Alabama JAck, this article was written by Tony, not Mark! War Jacket usually the thing that gets you recognized as a great coach is the 200 win milestone, throw in a National title and you bet your sweet ass Vince Dooley belongs there. However this article was about Bowden and it was a great one Tony. Bowden deserverd to go out on his terms, just no other way to put it. The story you mention from the Miami game just proves the caliber man that Bobby Bowden is, but that is nothing new. Go back to the tragedy with the loss of the Marshall football team and see what he did while he was at West Virginia, Bowden is just one hell of a man!

Got 12?

December 1st, 2009
9:43 am

Inside Source,

Kirby’s next job will be a head coaching one, not a lateral-demotion (lateral in title, demotion in program).

You’re partially right though, Kirby will return to Georgia…for the SECC game on Saturday.

BF

December 1st, 2009
9:45 am

Ray Perkins and Bobby Bowden should never be mentioned in the same blog.

SadDawg

December 1st, 2009
9:47 am

That’s just mean, “Got 12″.

Dave

December 1st, 2009
9:48 am

It’s a sad day when people have to use a thread like this to display their thoughtless ignorance. Apparently we’ve accepted that everything in this society is disposable, including valuable human beings like Bobby Bowden. If retirement is a done deal, then why are you people still bemoaning the negatives, and whining about YOUR favorite coaches getting their due credit. At the least, this should be a tribute to a legend. I would hate to some of you at my loved one’s funeral. Will Americans ever get some class again, or is this what we’ve got to look forward to? Very sad indeed.

Gator and Cane

December 1st, 2009
9:48 am

Hell we didn’t see a problem with Bobby, it looked to us like he had the program going in the right directions

redandblack80

December 1st, 2009
9:49 am

T B -shut your pie hole,no one asked for your two cents worth.this page is about Bobby Bowden,not you.Have some respect for Bobby,or do you need some help with your manners as all little punks do.Go play with your toys,unless you have something nice to say about the ‘Legendary Bobby Bowden”.Bobby-go play golf with your friends and unwind,forget about the things that happened at FSU.Its their problem now,you were the better man for walking away.God Bless-CBB.

BYU4life

December 1st, 2009
9:50 am

Jimbo Fisher will be fired in two years….watch

JB

December 1st, 2009
9:50 am

T B:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::;and who cares about Tech……..Check the attendance at this weeks ACC title game and get back to me.

Andy in Blairsville

December 1st, 2009
9:51 am

As a season ticket holder for many years, I’m proud of what Bobby Bowden means to FSU Football. Sure the last several years weren’t exactly what many wanted but Bobby will retire as a class act and one of the best coaches in college football ever and many of his records will never be surpassed.

Dad-gummit Bobby I hate to see ya go but we knew this day would eventually come.

Godspeed Bobby!

UGA72

December 1st, 2009
9:53 am

Enter your comments here
It is true that Coach Bowden seems to have lost control of his team in recent years, but remember that Florida has one of the strongest sunshine laws for public information in the nation, and much of what occurred at FSU likely occurred at many, many other schools but were never reported. I was a young sports editor by the time Coach had already made FSU a program that not many teams wanted to play, yet he always showed me nothing but courtesy when I sought an interview with him or one of his players. This was back in the late-1970s, early-1980s. Bobby Bowden was a class act then, and he remains so. I do regret that the powers-to-be did not allow him to exit with grace, and on his own terms. Shame on you, FSU!

Chris

December 1st, 2009
9:54 am

Mickey Andrews retires….Coach Bowden is forced too….then Jimbo should be fired! Bring in Mike Kelly from Cinci as head coach and Dick Bumpas from TCU as defensive coordinator. LSU never had a high powered offense when Jimbo was there, it was LSU’s defense that made them a power house and won the national championships in ‘03 (#1 rank defense) and ‘07 (#2 rank defense) The best offense that LSU had with Fisher as offense coordinator was ranked 11th in 2001 and 2006 neither year that LSU won the national title…..how does an offense that is ranked 11th one year go to 86th the following year under the same offensive coordinator….FSU pay the $5 million and make a clean sweep since you have the broom out!

Gator and Cane

December 1st, 2009
9:54 am

Well said Dave it’s very sad indeed. We believe he had at least 2 more good years and that would have got him to 400 wins

ATLNole

December 1st, 2009
9:56 am

nolefan how can you call yourself a TRUE noles fan and then wish bad karma on the program? Your loyalty should be to the program, and not 1 man.

Dave

December 1st, 2009
9:59 am

I think the under-30 generation would pass legislation that requires harvesting the healthy organs of everyone over 59, right after confiscating their assets.

T B

December 1st, 2009
9:59 am

J B I don’t care about the attendance at this weeks ACC title game. I will be at the Ga. Dome, but I will go by Tech stadium on my way and take a look at the historical site were the pups beat that power house tech team.

Coach O

December 1st, 2009
10:02 am

Some are concerned that Florida hit an emotional peak for the season when they hosted FSU for Senior Day and bid farewell to the Tim Tebow era.

Looks like at least one Florida player thought the season was over:
http://blogs.palmbeachpost.com/gatorbytes/2009/12/01/gators-de-carlos-dunlap-arrested-for-dui/

Jimbo Joker Muschamp

December 1st, 2009
10:02 am

I am “Looking over your shoulder” Head Coach.
Does the ajc have any “Sports Columnists in Waiting” …Tony?

Hurricane Bob

December 1st, 2009
10:03 am

Bowdon promised that when he dies his tombstone will say, “He played Miami.” We’ll see if he’s a man of his word.

Fleischamn loves BBC in the NYC

December 1st, 2009
10:04 am

Maybe Carlos was drinking some of Tebows “jesus juice”

GT...(avoids shreveport)

December 1st, 2009
10:04 am

11-2 ACC CHAMPS
……………………….
12-2 ORANGE BOWL CHAMPS
………………………………………..

T B

December 1st, 2009
10:05 am

redandblack80 you guy’s are the one’s who wants Tony to write about that great Georgia victory in Booby Dodd stadium saturday night. I just trying to point out to you the reason he hasn’t is that NO ONE CARES!!!!!!

Tony you are such

December 1st, 2009
10:05 am

an idiot. 14 years with a top five finish and only 2 NCs to show for it. Hell Levell Edwards, Loydd Carr, and many others have 1 NC and will never be considered among the greats and they never had a run close to 14 years in the top 5 let alone playing for it 5 times.

Here is the most telling stat. Bobby Bowden has a losing record to every CANE coach with a NC. Count em 4. That speaks volumes about his 1) Coaching abilities in the games 2) the type of head to head recruiting he was doing against 4 cane coaches.

Oh, check bowden’s record against the SEC and ACC when he chose to join the ACC in Sept 90 vs the joining the ACC. He chose the easier route and should never have idiots like you claiming he is a legend.

ratherBgambling

December 1st, 2009
10:06 am

Long overdue for BB. But like most “hereos” as time goes by he accomplishments will be exaggerated and his failures forgotten.

My guess is we won’t be seeing any mention of the Peter Warrick suspension, Fred Rouse, etc etc.

Mikey

December 1st, 2009
10:06 am

I for one will miss him. Period – end of story.

jc_atl

December 1st, 2009
10:06 am

As an Auburn fan I’ll never forget Auburn’s annual slugfest with FSU back in the mid 80’s. Dye vs Bowden, 1984 in Tallahassee. The game went down to the wire with Auburn’s Brent Fullwood scoring the final TD for a 42-41 Auburn win. Why do I remember this? 1) FSU was a great team and Bowden already known as one of the best football coaches in the business. 2) I was a freshman at college and my suite-mate was a huge FSU fan. We could only pick up the game on a very scratchy AM radio that we had to twist and turn to keep reception. So, there he and I were barely able to hear the game as FSU and Auburn fought in a neverending slugfest. What a game. Bowden is a class act and records go out the window – what he’s done for college football is larger than a win record whether he can see that now or not.

ReptilesRule

December 1st, 2009
10:07 am

Carlos Dunlap. Worlds biggest dumbazz. Probably just cost himself $$$$$ and maybe Florida the SECCG. Way to think about your teammates moron!!!!!!!!

DawginLex

December 1st, 2009
10:07 am

gt(AVOIDS TACKLING uga RUNNING BACKS)

For something no one cares about, the UGA win over Tech is sure getting mentioned a lot…………………….

WAITING ROOM

December 1st, 2009
10:08 am

Jimbo, Joker, and Muschamp are a joke.
Sorry offense and a Sorry defense.

Dave

December 1st, 2009
10:09 am

Face it young people, a college education for you means absolutely nothing. Even your master’s degrees are worthless. Athletics is the last bastion of hope for a university’s survival–the only program that still teaches character. Bobby Bowden has been more valuable to FSU than any elitist professor. Listen to the never-held-a-real-job academic, and you’ll never get a real job. Follow the example of men lie Bobby, and you might actually do something successful. But you’ll likely choose the former and go into politics. God help us.

GT avoids shreveport

December 1st, 2009
10:10 am

……..12-2 …..ORANGE BOWL CHAMPS

Dawg Fan

December 1st, 2009
10:12 am

T B is right….. Dawg Nations it was Ga Tech we beat for GOD SAKE!!!!!!

redandblack80

December 1st, 2009
10:13 am

T B-Like I said earlier-learn some manners lil punk,this page is a tribute to Bobby,there are 364 more days to write about Ga spanking GT……..NO ONE CARES ABOUT WHAT YOU SAY-PERIOD.Go cwawl back under your rock.Were on here today to pay respect to a great man and “COACH”….Nuff said!!!