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

BAMA STAN

December 1st, 2009
10:22 am

12 NATIONAL TITLES – 21 SEC TITLES!!!

What is it about head football coaches that makes them entitled?

Bobby Bowden is a legend – built an incredible program – and managed it’s demise.

Did coach Bowden deserve to go out on his own terms? – NO! He deserves to go out on negotiated terms.

IF I do not produce in my job – I guarentee you I will be shown the door. Bowdens legendary status and past history should allow him extra opportunity to rebuild his program – but that time clearly passed – and FSU became an average to slightly above average program – depending on the year.

I might also add that FSU really botched this situation. This entire coach in waiting strategy is a bad idea and creates a division among the staff.

I appreciate and respect the accomplishments of the the legendary Bobby Bowden – and also realize that he avoided joining the SEC so he could take the path of least resistence to success of winning conference championships by joining the ACC. FSU would have been in the thick of it in the SEC – but would have had a few more losses along the way.

ROLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL TIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Big Fat Alligator

December 1st, 2009
10:26 am

Forever A Hole,

Thanks for the grammar lesson professor. How’s this for apostrophe use? Bobby Bowden’s dadgum record vs. UF for the past 5 years has been terriblel. And bringing up his past (record vs. Spurrier) is for cowards.It was time for him to step down many years ago, same with Joe Pa and Bobby Cox.

Dadgummit, he’s gonna be out playing golf with his non-coaching sons now so be happy for him.

ó¿ó

ROLL TIDE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

December 1st, 2009
10:31 am

Coach Paul “Bare” Bryant would be the all-time winningest coach in college football history if he had as good a cardiologist as Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno.

ROLL TIDE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

brokebackvol

December 1st, 2009
10:31 am

Sad way to go out, but Coach Bowden needed to step aside. I really don’t like this whole “coach in waiting” stuff, as it is harmful to the program. If the main man needs to go, regardless of his status as a legend, then he needs to go and let the next guy have the power to do the job. Not taking anything away from Bobby, but I think he overstayed his welcome.

Another piece of the old South from my boyhood fades into history.

ReptilesRule

December 1st, 2009
10:32 am

I understand the Seminole Nation frustration, but Bobby deserved better. They should have all met and worked this out before this season so he could have had his day…

FSU Alum

December 1st, 2009
10:34 am

Tony – You defy logic simply to create controversy. Why would someone come in to be defensive coordinator for one year? If you’re looking for a job created by Bowden – sorry. You got to be kin for that.

FLNavigator

December 1st, 2009
10:38 am

The Gator in me says please keep Bobby. The more objective college football fan in me says it’s time to hang ‘em up, Bobby. You did a great job building the program, but you’re in the process of overseeing its demolition.

But, what the heck… http://www.keepbobbybowden.com

Huh?!

December 1st, 2009
10:45 am

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the ACC.

You got away with it for a while, Bobby, but eventually time caught up with you.

Ga boy

December 1st, 2009
10:46 am

Let the healing begin- finally!!!

FLA DAWG

December 1st, 2009
10:49 am

Tony,

My memories of Bowden will be mixed ones. A legendary coach who created an incredibly successful program, an attempt at a Family Dynasty in College Coaching with mixed results at best and a Great Coach who continued well beyond his prime resulting in dismal seasons for his players, FSU and all of their Fans.

He will always be remembered more for the successes he had but in my opinion should have retired a long time ago.

Miles

December 1st, 2009
10:50 am

Bowden did an excellent job at Florida State…no question about it! However, at 80 years old, it’s time to ride off into the sunset. I’m sure Bowden was a nice guy Mr. Barnhart, i.e., the bit about the autographed hat, but he was also a dumb fox. His outwardly simplistic demeanor was undoubtedly a calculated measure. College football fans will certainly miss him.

Ga boy

December 1st, 2009
10:50 am

Oops- make that 27 arrests in the last 4 years.

http://www.mugshotsgainesville.com/

CBS Watcher

December 1st, 2009
10:51 am

Who has the worst look? You or Brando? Dyed hair, heavy makeup, lots of cliches, recreating the early 80’s on national tv.

Honest Abe

December 1st, 2009
10:51 am

Well said, BAMA STAN. We earn the right to continue to work by our current and on-going performance, not by ancient history.

(p.s. watch your back for “Forever a Nole” and the apostrophe police)

Urban Meyer

December 1st, 2009
10:53 am

“We will let the process be handled by the authorities, until then he will play Saturday.”

Done deal pal

Ga boy

December 1st, 2009
11:02 am

Atta boy Urban- that’ll show Lane how it should be done. No hypocrisy here- none at all!!!

LAKE OCONEE DAWG

December 1st, 2009
11:15 am

TB
YOU COULDN’T BE MORE WRONG….ONLY CARE ABOUT BEATING CLEMPSON???? CPJ SAID IT WAS DOWN HIS LIST OF PRIORITIES…HE MUST HAVE SEEN IT COMING…..

Paul The Vol

December 1st, 2009
11:19 am

Based on some of the comments on this blog is it any wonder that so many columnists hold their readers in such contempt?

Thanks for the article Tony. I appreciated reading it and especially the story at the end. Well done.

Bobby Bowden Fan

December 1st, 2009
11:20 am

Gordon

December 1st, 2009
8:11 am
I don’t understand the idea that a coach “earns the right to leave on his own terms.”
When you build a program from the ground up then you certainly have the right. Bobby Bowden was more than just a football coach. He not only built a football program, but he helped take the school itself to another level.
For those who say Bobby was running the program into the ground, I say were it not for Bobby Bowden there would be no program to run into the ground.
The only thing FSU produced of any merrit before Bowden’s arrival was Burt Reynolds!

TechCrybaby

December 1st, 2009
11:21 am

THE BOBBY BOWDEN I LOVED: Built FSU’s great football program from nothing – Always spoke graciously in victory or defeat – Had “plain as old shoe” Southern manner – FSU lady lovingly called him, “Ouah Bobby” -Taught Sunday School at one point, while still a coach.

THE BOBBY BOWDEN I HATED: Calculated whether to join SEC, or ACC, when I KNEW he’d join the weaker conference, where my Tech had just won a National Championship – Took Georgia Tech’s 7-0-1 series record against FSU, and turned it into 7-12-1 – Recruited hordes of “fresh legs,” regardless of academic qualifications – Ran up huge scores on ACC teams, to attract national attention (one year it was in the 70’s each, against Duke, Wake, and NC State) – Finally came to think his football empire was bigger than the university.

Quote of the Day

December 1st, 2009
11:27 am

“That conference (ACC) is really down, especially in the area of the box, offensive and defensive line play. It’s just not very good. I thought (before the game) we were a lot better than they were up front, and we were.” Ellis Johnson, South Carolina DC

Ouch!

Doo dah- Doo dah

December 1st, 2009
11:29 am

Bobby Bowden Fan FSU has a short football history becoming coed around 1950. There had only been 25 years of football before Bowden came. But FSU had done some good things under Bill Peterson and had won their first game against the Gators with Steve and Freddie B. Westcott Hall shows that it is Florida State University- it is NOT Bobby Bowden University. FSU was a great university long before Bowden appeared and will do just fine long after Bowden is gone. Please stop your attempt at rewriting history. Bowden did a wonderful job in elevating the football program beyond what we could imagine. I appreciate that. It is long past the time for him to leave. LONG PAST. Let the healing begin.

Trent

December 1st, 2009
11:29 am

Tony, how bout you join Bowden in retirement? Your columns are quite awful.

Gatorzip74

December 1st, 2009
11:38 am

As a Gator I will miss Ole Robert. He is a class act and has done nothing but positive things for young men, the State of Florida, and the college football world. Hopefully the Head Ball Coach will follow suit and set up a bowl game for the ages.
Hope your happy Noles, you just got stuck with Jimbo.

Gumby

December 1st, 2009
11:38 am

Nice column about a nice guy and a great coach. I’ll miss him. Thanks Tony.

Gatorzip74

December 1st, 2009
11:42 am

Doo dah- Doo dah “FSU was a great university long before Bowden appeared” You’re joking right? FSU was nothing before Robert Bowden appeared, in fact FAMU, Leon HS and Lincoln HS outdrew them in attendance. Do I even need to mention Girls School?

G8R GRAD

December 1st, 2009
11:52 am

SadDawg:

Good stuff.
I didn’t know that.

SarahCF

December 1st, 2009
11:54 am

“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.”

For shame. We have all forgotten what the purpose of a university is: learning. If we lose sight of this and let FSU, and Bobby Bowden, walk away from this unscathed, the biggest loser will be academics, the true backbone of universities.

David Granger

December 1st, 2009
11:59 am

We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, Tony. I am not a fan of Bobby Bowden.

greg

December 1st, 2009
12:10 pm

won all those games because he had top talent on the field vs crap talent of the acc. typical fsu season lose to miami early beat all the crappy acc teams then go to a bowl game and finish 11-1 and finish in the top 5. if bowden coached in the sec he wouldnt have won near as many games!!! thats a fact

GT avoids shreveport

December 1st, 2009
12:11 pm

Bobby Bowden is three years YOUNGER than Joe Paterno
and would be the perfect “Coach in Waiting” for Penn State.

Anonymous

December 1st, 2009
12:17 pm

To all you indignant, sanctimonious, hipocritical critics of Carlos Dunlap:

You were once 20 years old, too.
Kids make mistakes.
Or have you conveniently forgotten?

FSU Alum

December 1st, 2009
12:20 pm

Hey Tony – Ann Bowden is quoted as telling the university to “go ahead and fire him if they have the guts.” Sounds like someone who has her heart in FSU.

UrbanMeyer.com

December 1st, 2009
12:21 pm

Carlos Dunlap will be suspended for the first half,
……………………………………………………………
unless Bama somehow jumps ahead on the scoreboard.

H

December 1st, 2009
12:23 pm

Anonymous your right we all have made mistakes but if the reports that are coming out are true this guy was past out with the car running and didn’t responsed with the cops tried to wake him up, but don’t worry i’m sure he’ll still play

$aban

December 1st, 2009
12:24 pm

Tebow has never made a mistake in his life.

Jeff

December 1st, 2009
12:29 pm

TB….Tech cares…..between UGA and SC, we made the ACC championship game a complete joke…..

Joe

December 1st, 2009
12:32 pm

GT ACC Champions!!! 12-2!!!!!! woooo hoooo…Tell me boys, who are the 2????? LMAO

Gator Mike

December 1st, 2009
12:34 pm

Boobby Bowden certainly made the UF-FSU Rivalry. Until FSU started to slde, I was always aprehensive about the game. Sitting in my usual seat on the 40 yd line 14 rows up on the East Side of the Swamp this past Saturday, I watched Bobby very closely as the Gators totally dismantled his beloved Noles. It was easy to see that he was in pain which may explain why he kicked a field goal from the 2 yard line to prevent a shutout.
Bobby will always be a legend. I found him humorous and a terrific coach. Yes, FSU had some problems during his reign, but every program has a few knuckleheads who tarnish their team. He will be missed by the Gator Nation who liked to beat him when we were able, and it will be a long time, if ever, that the UF-FSU rivalry ever has the intensity which it had when Bobby and FSU were on top.
I wish Bobby and his wife all of the best. He is one of the very best, and he played a valuable role in making football in the state of Florida among the best. The UF, FSU amd Miami teams with rosters full of ex-Florida high school players significantly highlighted the wealth of talent in the state of Florida.
As he slowly walked off the field on Saturday evening, everyone sitting around me had a feeling that we saw Bobby in his last game. It was fitting that Tim Tebow approached him and shook his hand. I would love to have a picture of that when 2 college football legends met for the last time in the Swamp.
Go Gators!

Delbert D.

December 1st, 2009
12:34 pm

greg -
“if bowden coached in the sec he wouldnt have won near as many games!!! thats a fact”

No, that is an opinion. A fact is a statement that can be checked and confirmed. You can’t check and confirm something that never happened.

Dr. Pepper SEC bargain

December 1st, 2009
12:35 pm

The SEC Championship game is a bargain for a family of four.
Only $1,500 per ticket equals a modest $6,000 for good wholesome entertainment in these tricky economic times.

dan

December 1st, 2009
12:36 pm

Bobby will always be remembered as one of the all-time great coaches. And those Florida State teams in the 1990’s were unbelievable. His teams were the only ones strong enough to stand up to the hated Florida Gators under Steve Spurrier and the hated Miami Hurricanes.

With all that being said, it was time for him to go. He quit because he basically was going to be a figurehead, but he’s been a figurehead for that program the last 4-5 years. That Florida State program has finished 6-6 3 out of the last 4 years, and isn’t even in the vicinity as the Florida Gators anymore. The kids are no longer buying into what he and the coaches are selling. And Florida State did nothing but complicate the situation with this whole ” coach in waiting” crap, which is nothing more than a passive agressive jab to get Bobby out. I know the record means a lot to Bobby, but if that’s the only reason he’s in football then that’s pretty petty. Record or no record, he’ll be remembered as being one of the all-time greats.

Overpaid

December 1st, 2009
12:38 pm

For the last 5 years, bowden has done little or no coaching, but has still been paid millions in cash plus benefits. He got millions in the 80s and 90s and won 2 titles. Overall, he got out more than he put in. The old man needs to retire and quit wasting florida taxpayer money!

Doo dah- Doo dah

December 1st, 2009
12:41 pm

Gatorzip74 As usual another Gator likes to run his mouth without knowing anything about the topic.

Joe the LMAO

December 1st, 2009
12:41 pm

The suspended SEC refs
………………………….made the SEC Championship Game a complete joke.

Da Dawg Pound

December 1st, 2009
12:41 pm

Dunlap gets a DUI and only gets suspended only for the first half? No complete game suspension? Urban Meyer has sunk to a new low as far as doing the right thing. Most coaches do a a multi game suspension for something as serious as a DUI and few do as little as a one game suspension. And Meyer is going to suspend him for just a half game. He has set a new low as far as punishment and thuggery goes. Thuggery now rules gatorland and the inmates are running the asylum. Move over UT. There is a new thug university.

Anonymous

December 1st, 2009
12:43 pm

Doo dah- Doo dah

December 1st, 2009
12:45 pm

BTW Gator zip your salad days end after this year. And Jimbo will bring FSU back soon very soon.
Get ready- it’s coming.

Doo dah- Doo dah

December 1st, 2009
12:47 pm

http://www.mugshotsgainesville.com/

Let’s see that makes 27 arrests over the last 4+ years in Penalville Anonymous- glass houses indeed!!!

George Holman

December 1st, 2009
12:47 pm

You would think that FSU would provide a better way for Bowden to leave the stage of college football. He was unique and brought class and dignity to the game. He will leave a huge void!