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

Observor

December 1st, 2009
12:50 pm

Wow, real fascinating article….

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

G'Vegas Dawg

December 1st, 2009
12:56 pm

Tony – you lost all credibility when you went on national TV and said that Tech will win …and I quote…”BIG”. You may want to see if you can get a job with the TECH student newspaper and work your way back up. 30-24!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous

December 1st, 2009
12:57 pm

Whatever, DooDah, your righteous indignation seems a little disingenuous at the very least!

G'Vegas Dawg

December 1st, 2009
1:01 pm

You know I don’t speak spanish….

1eyedJack

December 1st, 2009
1:01 pm

“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.”

Some legends just don’t know when to hang ‘em up.

Delbert D.

December 1st, 2009
1:10 pm

If you want to read a history of one of the all-time wacko football players, check out Joe Don Looney, an all-american RB and punter at Oklahoma and the NFL. I recall an article later on where he was working at a Hindu temple shoveling out elephant pens.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Don_Looney

Fleischman loves BBC in the NYC

December 1st, 2009
1:12 pm

Urban Cryer will let his lil thug play Saturday. I bet he will have some onions under the podium for his press conference later today. waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Doo dah- Doo dah

December 1st, 2009
1:14 pm

Anonymous It’s just so much fun pointing out the obvious hypocrisy of you arrogant, classless Gators everytime.

G'Vegas Dawg

December 1st, 2009
1:15 pm

Georgia at Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech is brimming with confidence as it goes for its second straight win over the Bulldogs. Georgia, meanwhile, just doesn’t seem to have any answers after last week’s meltdown against Kentucky. Athletically, Georgia should be able to hang around but there is no evidence that the Bulldogs can handle a tough, physical football game for four quarters. That is exactly what Georgia Tech will give them. Georgia Tech 38, Georgia 21.

jdub

December 1st, 2009
1:24 pm

Good riddance. Should have left years ago but in his mind it’s all about him. He was a notorious recruiting violator. He ratted out other programs when he was doing the same thing. He had that preacher/salesman personality down to a tee. Only Houston Nutt does it better. I’m an OU fan and it gives me great pleasure that we humiliated him in his last NC game appearance. Be loyal to the program not the coach. coaches are temporary custodians.

Anonymous

December 1st, 2009
1:29 pm

As of June of this year:

“UF’s arrests are in line with those of its traditional rivals. Georgia football players have accumulated 30 arrests during the same four-year period. Tennessee has tallied 21 arrests, while Florida State has totaled 13 arrests.”

The numbers have risen since, to be sure, but only correspondingly so.

Anonymous

December 1st, 2009
1:31 pm

bugsquacher

December 1st, 2009
1:38 pm

Damn good Coach. Class act.

Dallas Dawg

December 1st, 2009
1:49 pm

Tony,
Powerful story about Bobby Bowden. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Tide Rising

December 1st, 2009
2:04 pm

Reptiles rule,

Have to agree with you about Dunlap. He let down his teammates, every gator fan, and bottom line is he probably cost himself a lot of freaking money in bargaining power when he signs his NFL contract. They will use this to discount how much they will pay him citing possible alcohol addiction, morals clause, etc. This mistake was more costly to him then he realizes.

I wish they could really drum it into these kid’s minds, especially the surefire pro caliber ones, about just how much money and lost job prospects they can cost themselves with stupid stuff like DUIs.

I’m sure they’ll suspend him minimally for at least this game so for me its a blessing that UF will be missing such a stellar player. The biggest worry us Bama fans have been talking about is Florida’s speed coming off the edge in Dunlap and Cunningham. Its my single biggest concern going into the seccg, bigger even then Tebow.

Our left tackle in particular has been beaten by speed rushers like Dunlap during the season and a good case in point was when Antonio Coleman beat him last week, sacked McElroy and almost caused a fumble.

Gators are still loaded with talent but I still think there will be a dropoff from a future NFL star like Dunlap and Trattou. Dunlap is 6′6 290, has tremendous speed. Trattou his backup is 6′4 260 and is a redshirt freshman. I hate it for Dunlap but I’m feeling a little better about our chances.

Gen Neyland

December 1st, 2009
2:06 pm

Da Dawg Pound : Thought you might enjoy this snipet on UGA freshman, Montez Robinson :

Robinson, 19, smelled of alcohol, according to the officer’s report.

He was placed under arrest and “became very agitated while being placed into double locked handcuffs. He started to yell and scream while being placed in the rear of a caged unit,” according to the report. Robinson is the fourth Georgia player arrested since Oct. 13. The other three arrests were traffic-related… Oh hum, it only happens elsewhere.

Mary Secard

December 1st, 2009
2:09 pm

I salute Bowden. It is deplorable that the sports press on national TV fueled this story all season. He helped a lot of kids stay on the right path just by being part of a team. That is the great thing he did in addition to excellent coaching.

DawgVoiceofReason

December 1st, 2009
2:18 pm

SadDawg,

You stated that “Spurrier was not a gracious winner or loser. But he also never cheated and never recruited players with character problems”. Your first sentence may be the understatement of the year. Yes, he fully earned the “Evil” part of his nickname with his complete lack of class while at Florida. I think now everyone in South Carolina (except Clemson) is wondering where the “Genius” part went. As to your second sentence, I will agree that he was not caught cheating, but I doubt the second part. I don’t know of many big time college football programs that have not had any issues with the “character” of at least some of their players.

As for me, I would not have Spurrier as the head football coach of my University under any circumstances. What kind of Dawg fan would have anything to do with Spurrier?

collinseli

December 1st, 2009
2:35 pm

Dumbo Fisher is not going to help. Give Bobby the offense for the bowl game. At least he can make decisions better than Jimbo( Coach in waiting)

Got 12?

December 1st, 2009
2:36 pm

Regarding Dunlap, what’s the big deal? I got drunk during the Iron Bowl.

Oh wait, I wasn’t driving, didn’t pass out, and didn’t have to go to work or school or practice the next day. And my performance or absence this Saturday will have no effect on the my team’s championship aspirations.

I now see what the big deal is.

FLNavigator

December 1st, 2009
2:47 pm

Gatorzip74, Doo dah- Doo dah was FSU was a great *university* before Bowden, not a great football team. The same can be said for UF before Spurrier.

During my senior year in high school — before either university had great teams — I can remember a handful of classmates actually choosing to go to FSU because it had the same school colors. Unbelievable! I picked UF and never once regretted that decision. Go Gators!

how2fish

December 1st, 2009
3:02 pm

God’s speed Coach Bowden…as a long time college football fan I’m glad I got to watch so many great games you were a part of.Tony thanks for sharing !

Got 12?

December 1st, 2009
3:29 pm

LSU = Capitol One Bowl
Ole Miss = Cotton Bowl
Auburn = Outback Bowl

The close loss to Bama really improved AU’s bowl prospects. I guess moral victories to count for something.

obomaisaclown

December 1st, 2009
3:34 pm

Bobby spoke at my church First Baptist Woodstock one time. God will continue to us him I am sure

Got 12?

December 1st, 2009
3:36 pm

UT in the Peach Bowl v. Va Tech

if a frog had wings

December 1st, 2009
4:09 pm

Out with tyhe old and in with the new!
Sorry guys has nothing to do with loyalty it is about 160 coaches who make over a million a year. Get a life even the great bear bryant had to let go!
Some day Penn St will do the right thing also!

Anonymous

December 1st, 2009
4:47 pm

Hey, obomaisaclown,

Learn to spell, moron.

It’s O-b-a-m-a.

Gen Neyland

December 1st, 2009
5:16 pm

Got 12? : Personally, I like the Peach Fil-et opportunity better than the Outback. 8pm 12/31 vs 11am 1/1, a ranked VT vs a Wisconsin. AU finished the year 2-5. Started great at 5-0 but fell off hard. It was the Outback’s choice and I’m fine with it if it becomes offcial. Yep, even though Tennessee struggled in the Dome under Fulmer, I’ll take it as a fresh beginning under Kiffin…

Anonymous #2

December 1st, 2009
5:17 pm

Anonymous,

You may be missing the point. The guy was probably misspelling Obama on purpose to add further insult.

hunker down

December 1st, 2009
6:10 pm

I got to admit as a long time Dawg fan I am teary eyed tonight as we are losing one of the greatest coaches of all time. He did so much for the game and his genius is legendary. Fake puntaroosie comes to mind as how he thought outside the box and kept defenses guessing. He mentored so many of the great ones during his tenor at FSU. As you mentioned Tony he gave so much more than he recieved in return. Hail to Bobby Bowdon. Thank you Coach for so many great moments!

TampaGator

December 1st, 2009
6:12 pm

Tide Rising…First, Dunlap probably will not play another down at Florida. I can’t see Meyer overlooking this kind of behavior before a big game like the SEC title game. Total lack of concern for his teammates by his actions. Secondly, Dunlap is a spectacular player, but he also takes a lot of downs off. The benefit from Trattou will be total hustle on every single down he plays. Also, Trattou is not a redshirt freshman. He was never redshirted, and he is a junior. He is injured, however, and his injury does not allow him to play every down. You will see a combination of Justin Trattou, Duke Lemmens, and William Green and the right defensive end position. You might even see a little of Earl Okine, the next Carlos Dunlap type player. He is also 6′7 and 290 lbs and is strong and quick. He IS a redshirt freshman who will be a star in the coming years. The Gators will miss Dunlap in passing situations, but not as much against the rush. Trattou is much better against the run. Green will probably come in during passing situations, and he is a very good speed rusher (and from Alabama in fact). I told a friend today…Carlos Dunlap just changed his name to Carlos Dumbass.

TampaGator

December 1st, 2009
6:20 pm

Flieschman…you idiot…Dunlap is no thug. He has never been in trouble at Florida before in the 3 years he has been there. He may have committed a terrribly stupid act, but he is no thug. You are for calling him one. Plus, I would be shocked if Meyer lets him play Saturday. It would send the wrong message if he does, and I don’t think Meyer will send that kind of message. It sounds like Dunlap was totally drunk…and driving in that state. I personally think he has played his last down at Florida unless he comes back next year, which he won’t. He has hurt his draft status, however. He is a risk player now. Dunlap actions and behavior is pure stupidity on his part and shows a lack of concern for his teammates. Meyer, I believe, will not tolerate the later part of that problem.

TampaGator

December 1st, 2009
6:24 pm

DawgVoiceofReason…you are right about one thing. Georgia fans don’t want a head coach that will bring them a national championship again. Say what you want, Spurrier is a great college coach. South Carolina is going to be a lot better than Georgia next year my friend. They will push Florida for the East title next year. Georgia won’t.

Ramguy

December 1st, 2009
6:26 pm

It’s true that it may have been for Bobby to retire. While I’m on that subject if there was ever a coach that the game had passed him by it was Vince Dooley. I may get shot at for saying so but I think that it was true when stepped down.

TampaGator

December 1st, 2009
6:31 pm

Fleishman…Meyer just suspended Dunlap for the SEC title game and and indefinitely for that matter. Want to apologize for being a slanderous idiot now????????????????????????????? Probably not.

TampaGator

December 1st, 2009
6:33 pm

Back to the subject of the article. It is sad to see Bobby go out like this. Penn State is not doing this to Paterno. Bobby gave his heart, soul, and blood to FSU (and sometimes his honor in who he recruited and who he let play after things happened). But no matter, he deserved better than this…and I hate the Noles.

Hawaii Dog

December 1st, 2009
6:39 pm

Georgia should hire Bobby as special assistant to CMR. I bet he can add fire to CMR personality.

A Fan of Neither But Loving It

December 1st, 2009
6:44 pm

Want to know why it’s relevant that Georgia beat Tech? Because Tech had the loudest mouth outside Alabama last week about how they would “spank” their opponent. I don’t hear a peep this week from the Nerd Herd. Way to go Georgia. Now if only Auburn could have won that game against the Toilet Bowls then we wouldn’t have to hear Satanation either!!!!

jesse james

December 1st, 2009
7:13 pm

Bobby Bowden will be missed. I had a friend that played baseball at FSU. He always talked how Coach Martin would have Coach Bowden come talk to the baseball team, the players loved it. It is really sad to see him go. College football will definitely miss him. I think of Coach Bryant, Coach Bowden, Coach Jordan, Coach Dooley, Coach Dodd, Coach Mclendon, Coach Broyles, Coach Royal, Coach Paraseghian, Coach Paterno, Coach Devine, Coach Majors, and Coach Russell. These guys helped make College Football what it is today. Coach Bowden, enjoy your retirement, you will always be FSU Football.

Alabama athletic director Dave Hart

December 1st, 2009
7:21 pm

“Bobby Bowden never allowed unparalleled success to change who he was as a person,” Hart said in a statement. “I think that is the best compliment one could receive. His core values and character, his display of genuine respect for others and his willingness to give of his time and himself to the many who reached out to him remained constant through the good times and the challenging times. We should all wish for that to be our legacy.”

“He represented Florida State University with dignity and class as its most visible ambassador. I wish much happiness for Bobby and Ann in their lives after football. They have certainly earned that.”

Tide Rising

December 1st, 2009
7:32 pm

Tampa gator,

Glad to see Meyer suspended Dunlap indefinitely and not just because it helps our chances but because the circumstances are serious. I read that he would do a half game suspension and I was figuring that would be really weak if it were true. The multi game or indefinite suspension is more in line with what I’ve seen handed down in cases like this given the circumstances.

As for the guys that will take over my mistake on Trattou. Its the other guy who is a redshirt freshman that I was also thinking of that will be a big impact player in the future. I was more worried about Dunlap and Cunningham than Spikes or Tebow so Dunlap will not be missed from my biased perspective. In any event I still think its a big loss for UF but I’m sure the guys that will be backing him up will have something to say about that.

As for William Green he is in fact one of the fastest 1st step pass rushers I’ve ever seen and we were more than a little crimson faced mad when a great Birmingham prospect decided to head to Gainesville. A little undersized for an every down player but still blazing fast for the pass rush. I think I’ve seen him blow through and block at least 1 or 2 punts. At Bama he would have been a perfect Jack linebacker in the 3 4 D. Can’t win em all I guess in the recruiting battles.

Ed

December 1st, 2009
7:55 pm

I’ve held Bowden in the highest regard and have enjoyed his career, but as cnnsi.com’s Stewart Mandel said, his career ended in a “sad, ugly fashion,” and I have to agree.

But I can’t blame FSU. They gave the man 5-6 years to retire on his own terms after it became obvious to most of us that the game was passing him by, and he simply refused to do so. If Bowden was, in effect, fired by FSU, then it only happened after Bowden was allowed to drag the program he spent so many years building up into mediocrity. FSU is no better than a middle-of-the-pack ACC team, and that’s sad.

I’ve never seen a more innovative, dynamic, and successful coach during his prime, but the fact remains that no one man is bigger than a state university. In recent years, Bowden has shown a selfish, self-absorbed side that few suspected he had. Apparently that applies to his wife as well. And one can’t help but wonder – was all of this because of a desire to outlast another coaching legend in order to get a record?

For those of us who would prefer to remember Bowden as a great coach and tormentor of UF, this day didn’t come soon enough. I hope as the years go on we will remember his glory days more than his sad slide into mediocrity and the almost petulant stubborness that he displayed on his way down.

Johnny DangerDawg

December 1st, 2009
8:51 pm

Tony’s story about Bobby Bowden’s hat is a great story that shows why Bobby Bowden is an enigmatic character and a good person. It also has nothing to do with his ability to coach and the fact that FSU needs to move on.

Dawg Whisperer

December 1st, 2009
8:52 pm

Bobby Bowden, Mark Richt and Tim Tebow represent the finest in human character in collegiate football. Obviously, their success on the football field gives them the opportunity to showcase the true meaning of success in life. The common theme that they will all agree on… John 3:16.

Johnny DangerDawg

December 1st, 2009
8:52 pm

Guess what, Tony… there are other great guys out there who deserve a shot to coach too. Just because you are friends with some of these coaches and love them so much doesn’t mean that guys who you’ve never met aren’t also great guys who deserve a chance. Your line of thinking is why CEO’s of major corporations hire their friends to be executives instead of hiring the hard-working guy who’s best for the job even though he doesn’t have a personal connection to the big boss.

Buckhead Bulldog

December 1st, 2009
9:41 pm

Bobby Bowden… A college football legend that will be sorely missed! Dagummit!

Good luck Noles!

#2 BAMA FAN

December 1st, 2009
10:06 pm

I hope Bobby Bowden enjoys retirement with his wife and family!! RTR

Dana

December 1st, 2009
10:15 pm

Great coach and leader for men to follow like myself.

TrueCrimson

December 1st, 2009
10:15 pm

I agree. Thanks for the memories Bobby. Best of luck with everything that you do in retirement.

RTR!!!

DawgTally

December 1st, 2009
10:19 pm

I live in Tallahassee and a dawg fan but it is sad to see the Legend fired. You can spin it how you want but TK fired him. They did not have a press confernece becausee they did not want Ann to speak. Bobby is such a nice man and I have seen him many times in the local eateries and he always speaks to you. Jimbo has pulled the snake over TK. He has never been successful. Look at the LSU vs AU game when his QB did not throw in end zone on last drive His paly calling in 3rd quater agaiinst the nerds which I attended cost them the game.I hate UF but FSU will not catch them with Jimbo. Look for Jimbo to clean house. A few more may be headed to UGA.