Bobby Bowden celebrates new book, new life

Bobby Bowden always had a sure-fire line whenever somebody asked when he would retire from coaching:

“After you retire there is only one big event left. And I ain’t ready for that.”

The line always got a big laugh. But underneath Bowden’s dadgummit humor was a note of seriousness that he rarely discussed in public. Bear Bryant, who Bowden so admired, coached his last football game  on Dec. 29, 1982.  Just 28 days later Bryant was dead.

“Of course you think about it,” Bowden once told me in the privacy of his office at Florida State. “How can you NOT think about it.”

But Bobby Bowden, who turns 81 on Nov. 8, wants you to know that he is doing just fine despite the fact that for the first time in 57 years he will not be coaching football in 2010. That doesn’t mean he isn’t busy. He’s already been to Israel for 10 days. He has two speaking engagements lined up in Hawaii. He’ll be going on a long Carribean Cruise “and all I have to do is speak for about 45 minutes and I’m good.”

And the most important thing Bowden wants you to know that his greatest fear about leaving coaching–even surpassing the fears of his own mortality–has not come true.

“I thought that once I quit coaching nobody would be interested in what I had to say,” said Bowden when we talked by phone on Saturday. “As it turns out, they still want to listen.”

Bowden’s schedule is about to get even more hectic. For today his new book “Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith, and Football” hits the bookshelves around the country. Bowden will do a media blitz in New York on Tuesday to launch the book which was written with ESPN.com’s (and former AJC staffer) Mark Schlabach. Then it’s on to ESPN in Bristol, Conn.,  for a full day of interviews across their family of networks on Thursday.

The book, which includes forewords by Tony Dungy and Joe Paterno, offers keen insights into Bowden’s career and what made him so successful. Among the things Bowden did for the book was give Schlabach access to a folder that included more than 30 years of pre-game speeches.

“Mark dug in there and found a lot of things that still mean a lot to me,” said Bowden. “He did a heckuva job on the book and we’re very proud of it.”

One thing Bowden does not do in the book is vent against those who ultimately forced him out at Florida State. But he does explain his side of the story.  Yes, Bowden was told that he was going to get one more year at Florida State. He had been told that he would be allowed to determine his exit strategy. That did not happen. FSU President T.K. Wetherell, who played for Bowden, pushed the coach out the door before he was ready. Bowden is not bitter but he still believes that he had earned the right to leave on his own terms. An academic cheating scandal, after which the NCAA vacated 14 of Bowden’s victories, was the most disappointing blow of all, he said.

“I wasn’t ready to go out. I wanted to keep the battle going with Joe Paterno (for most career wins),” Bowden said. “But once the NCAA took those (14) wins away, it was over. But I’m not looking back. I don’t coach football any more but I haven’t retired. I want to stay busy.”

That won’t be a problem. The requests for Bowden to speak reach well into next year. On Sept. 3 he will do a book signing in Tallahassee. Then he’ll retreat to his second home in Panama City to spend the first weekend of the season. You probably won’t see him at Doak Campbell Stadium this season as Jimbo Fisher takes over as head coach after two seasons as the “coach in waiting.”

“I always said that once I got through coaching I was leaving,” said Bowden. “That wouldn’t be fair to the boys and it wouldn’t be fair to Jimbo. They don’t need to see old Bobby sitting over there.”

Alabama athletics director Mal Moore has invited Bowden to Tuscaloosa for the Sept. 11 game with Penn State.  As a boy growing up in Birmingham, there are a lot of good memories at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It would also be kind of fun to watch his old friend Joe Paterno walking up and down the sideline, he said.

“When I was a kid my dad used to take me to Tuscaloosa to watch the games,” Bowden said. “I think the last time I was there just watching as a fan was 1948 when I was a senior in high school and they were recruiting me. I always wanted to go back. And now I can.”

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160 comments Add your comment

Mike

August 24th, 2010
7:51 am

This is what happens to coaches and players who don’t know when it’s time to leave. It never ends pretty for anyone.

how2fish

August 24th, 2010
8:05 am

I have never been a FSU fan I was always a Bobby Bowden fan. Best of luck Coach !

#1 BAMA FAN

August 24th, 2010
8:06 am

Bobby will be welcome at Bryant Denny. He will not see Joe Pa’s lead in games increase on Sept.11 because the TIDE is going to beat the brakes off of PSU.RTR

Beast from the East

August 24th, 2010
8:08 am

From a Gator’s point of view, I was disappointed but understood FSU’s handling of his retirement. I felt he had earned the right to go out on his own terms. I do understand the administration’s decision to make that tough call due to the academic scandal and the recent results on the field. It’s a shame. Bowden changed college football. His run at FSU during the late 80’s and early 90’s will most likely never be duplicated. I feel like he was partly responsible for UF’s success. They couldn’t just sit around and watch “that other school” pass them by on the football field and went out and hired Spurrier. Those UF-FSU and UM-FSU games were some of the hardest hitting games I’ve ever seen. Sure, he made some mistakes along the way with some discipline issues and his decision not to join the SEC, but he’ll always be remembered as one of the best to ever walk a sideline.
Good luck on your retirement, Coach Bowden!

Dink

August 24th, 2010
8:09 am

Won’t be the same without seeing Coach Bowden on the sidelines. It would be great to see him as a studio analyst this fall. Best of luck to Coach Bowden.

Go Dawgs!

Jeff

August 24th, 2010
8:11 am

Agreed Mike. You can trash FSU (I’m a UGA fan) all you want but it wasn’t a couple year thing which would’ve been understandable. No it was almost an entire decade that Bowden put himself above the program that he built and took it “half back” as they say in the Carolinas about retirees moving back up from FL. It was tragic.

naganole

August 24th, 2010
8:19 am

Bobby Bowden is doing his best job to become vilified at FSU. He needs to look in the mirror to see the real problem.

how2fish

August 24th, 2010
8:34 am

Beast from the East good points I think he made the entire ACC better as well.

5IML

August 24th, 2010
8:37 am

Where would BAMA be if it had hired Bobby in the 80’s? We’d have a couple of more national championships but, ultimately, would have ended up on probation (like we did anyway).

I wonder if Bobby will wear BAMA gear to the game. I’m sure he has some at home.

Gatorbait 17-3

August 24th, 2010
8:40 am

Bobby Bowden is the best—a class act.

Best wishes to this fine gentleman

RxDawg

August 24th, 2010
8:43 am

It’s hard not to like Bobby Bowden. Truly one of the greatest.

how2fish

August 24th, 2010
8:43 am

5IML I for one am pretty sure if he had gone to Bama he would have the most wins record by now.

Alphare

August 24th, 2010
8:46 am

“he still believes that he had earned the right to leave on his own terms”.

In these days and age, I cannot believe there are people out there who believe they can leave on their own terms.

I have a lot of respect for Bobby. But you have to realize, if somebody leaves on his own term, that means somebody else will leave on bad terms. The FSU pie is only so big, if one person take too big a piece, others will get smaller shares. If FSU is not performing, the pie will get smaller, and if that one person still wants a bigger share, many other won’t even get a taste of it.

I hope Booby nothing but the best in his retirement.

RxDawg

August 24th, 2010
8:47 am

5IML, Not sure if you can say that. Bowden went to FSU and turned down an invitation to join the SEC and compete. Instead he went to the ACC and dominated. I’m not saying he wasn’t a great coach, but he did step into a better situation as far as his competetion went. If he coached at Bama, his W’s wouldn’t of come as easy and Bama fans might of ran him off cutting his career short. There are too many variables to say Bowden would of been a legend at Bama. The “buterfly effect” thing.

RxDawg

August 24th, 2010
8:49 am

Great post Beast

Kell

August 24th, 2010
8:50 am

Bowden was a classy man. Had a big impact on Coach Richt, spiritually and professionally. Best move Bowden ever made was hiring Mark Richt.

JJ's Place

August 24th, 2010
8:52 am

What a run FSU had when Coach Richt was on staff, 1986-2000, 13 top 5 finishes, 5 National Championship games, 2 National Championships, pretty amazing.

Russ

August 24th, 2010
8:53 am

Coach Bowden went to high school and college with my father and I had the chance to meet him a couple of times and he was always a class act. He came out of the locker room after a loss to Auburn to sign my program and ask about my father and on another occassion he signed a picture in his office for a rabid FSU friend from Pensacola. He will be missed by all college fans! Go Dawgs.

T3

August 24th, 2010
8:54 am

Whether after a Win or Loss, no one ever gave a more
entertaining press conference than BB.

However, F$U broke LOTS of NCAA rules. LOTS.

The F$U admin and BB both did the program in injustice by not contractorily specifying his date of employment, in advance.

They just kept kicking the can down the road, until they came to the end of the road. BB’s departure coulda and shoulda been handled much better than it was. BB had equal responsibility on how poorly it was handled.

College Football wont be the same without a regular BB press conference. Dadgumit.

However, what would REALLY be entertaining would be to see a
“Dean Martin Celebrity Roast” type of engagement where you would have a collection of old coaches and others get together to roast BB, or even JoePa.

It would be fitting and memroable tribute
to the “old -guard” generation of college football.

DawginLex

August 24th, 2010
8:56 am

The story of the missing chair in the locker room that Coach Richt tells is an example of the influence that Coach Bowden had on his life. He helped Coach Richt find the Lord and his life changed forever.

Coach Bowden is a winner whether he is coaching or not.

Dawg

August 24th, 2010
8:56 am

5IML, Bama would have ran Bobby off at the first sign that he was slipping. Who do you think you’re fooling?

MGS - FSU

August 24th, 2010
8:56 am

We will always love you Bobby! Go Noles!

Beast from the East

August 24th, 2010
8:58 am

T3,
I agree with your comment about neither side setting a firm retirement date. It would have been a win-win for both sides to come to terms beforehand. Short term, it created a lot of hard feelings from both sides of the fence. Long term, he’ll be remembered as one of the all-time greatest.

Sebastian the IBIS

August 24th, 2010
9:00 am

Wide right…….

Mikey in SAV

August 24th, 2010
9:03 am

I’d love to see him in the studio as a replacement for Lou Holtz.

5IML

August 24th, 2010
9:05 am

Rx and Dawg,

Bowden would have won a couple of NC’s for BAMA in the 80’s/early 90’s. BAMA fans would not have had the opportunity to run Bobby off. The NCAA would have given BAMA the death penalty for the things that occured during his tenure.

5IML

August 24th, 2010
9:12 am

PROGRAMMING NOTE: “Nick Saban: Gamechanger” premieres tonight at the Summit. (I’m sure there are BAMA fans already camped out at the theater.) This documentary promises to have something for everyone. For the haters, there is footage of the LaMo loss. For the fans, there is locker room footage including Saban’s BCSCG halftime speech.

ATLn0le

August 24th, 2010
9:24 am

Bobby will be missed, but it was time for him to leave -probably five or six years ago. The transformation our program has undergone in the past 7 months gives creedence to the fact that Bowden’s style of coaching was no longer working in the new era of CF. When asked if Jimbo would utilize Bowden’s practice tower, he said “How am I going to coach if I’m way the hell up there. I’ve got to be on the field with the players.” Our program has already made huge strides this offseason. Considering we never had a defensive playbook and players were required to just go out there and be athletic, this no longer works! I think you’ll see even more strides in the program and it will all eventually translate into wins. 2012 NCAA CHAMPS! EJ’s senior year!

Simple Simon

August 24th, 2010
9:28 am

Bowden trained Mark Richt, and Coahc Richt has done an amazing job in his first 9 yars.

Let’s compare Saban’s 1st 9 years as a head coach to Richt’s 1st 9 years as a Head Coach.

Win %
Saban .638
Richt .769

Top 10 Finishes
Saban 1
Richt 6

Top 3 Finishes
Saban 0
Richt 2

Bowden was a great mentor.

Kaliber411

August 24th, 2010
9:29 am

Beast- Thank you for your respectful comments. Florida has itself become a beast these days and it’s hard to watch Florida State play them. I miss the days where I felt that game decided the National Championship. Regardless, thank you for appreciating the legacy of bowden even though he coached the other Florida team. Best of luck next season and here’s to atleast a close game this year.

Simple Simon

August 24th, 2010
9:30 am

To really see Bowden’s impact on Mark Richt, look at how Richt compares to Bear Bryant.

Richt’s 1st 9 years vs. Bear Bryant’s 1st 9 Years:

Win %:
Bear- .690
Richt- .769

Top 10 Finishes
Bear- 1
Richt- 6

Top 3 Finishes
Bear- 1
Richt- 2

National Championships
Bear- 1
Richt-0

Bowden did a great job with Coach Richt, Georgia fans should be very grateful.

cuttysark

August 24th, 2010
9:37 am

If Bobby Bowden had a kicker in those Miami games his run of national championships would have made him even more of a legend. Sad to see him go and they way it was handled by the FSU administration and Board of Trustees. A great coach.

Sri

August 24th, 2010
9:41 am

I’m genuinely impressed by the even handed, generally reasoned comments on this article and the bowden situation. Not much of that ignornant “he shoulda stayed as long as he wanted” opinions that disregard the time he was afforded after it became evident that he lacked the ability to successfully lead an elite program. Kudos to you guys, especially beast from the east. Well said.

5IML

August 24th, 2010
9:41 am

Simple (Patrick, Q Dog, etc.),

How, in your mind, does an article about Bobby Bowden lead to a comparison between Richt and Saban and Bryant?

Obsession is an ugly thing.

Past due

August 24th, 2010
9:43 am

Free Shoes University
Criminoles

Bobby, we’ll miss you.

TLH Gator

August 24th, 2010
9:43 am

All who believe Bobby was “done wrong” by FSU should remember that despite statements about wanting “one more year” and talk of an exit strategy, Bobby never stated on the record that 2010 would be his last year. He was unwilling to give up coaching due to an irrational fear of death once he left the job and his pursuit of the all-time win record. Ask yourself, where in those two priorities is FSU and what is best for the program? Hey, I’m an Urban Meyer fan, despite his issues, but the UF program comes first for me. No coach should be above the well being and competitiveness of a program. Get over your personal feelings for an old coach.

Simple Simon

August 24th, 2010
9:46 am

Bowden’s proud of the legacy he’s carrying on through the coaches he mentored. Since Bowden’s golden years were all spent with Mark Richt, nothing says more about how great of a mentor Bowden was, than seeing how much better Richt has been than Saban & Bear Bryant in his first 9 years.

P.S. How does an article about Bobby Bowden lead you to make a programming note about Nick Saban’s documentary? That’s trolling, as usual, you’re off topic and irrelvant.

PTC DAWG

August 24th, 2010
9:50 am

Bobby should have retired 10 years ago. He had a great staff, and they started getting head coaching jobs elsewhere. He would have been legendary…stop down while on top IF you can.

Best of Luck to him.

Fleischman in Chattanooga

August 24th, 2010
9:52 am

Simple Simon, how many NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS has Saint Mark won at Ugag?

sleeze

August 24th, 2010
9:56 am

Bobby had some great coaches to work under him, except for the ones whose last name was also Bowden.

Red Panties

August 24th, 2010
9:58 am

Hey Tony,

Where are the dawgs on this list???????????

NCAA Report on FBS schools making money

The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — While college sports are among the sagging economy’s latest victims, things are not as bad at the University of Florida.

A newly released NCAA report shows that just 14 of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools made money from campus athletics in the 2009 fiscal year, down from 25 the year before

The NCAA doesn’t release individual schools’ revenues and expenses. But Fulks confirmed Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, Texas and Tennessee are among the select group that made money from athletics. So is Missouri, which reported generating $2 million in profits from campus athletics in 2009

Bob

August 24th, 2010
10:00 am

Bobby Bowden is a class act, a great man of faith….oh, and a “heckuva” coach.

Otto

August 24th, 2010
10:03 am

Hate to see Bobby go and it will be hard to cheer for FSU without him. I grew up with family in Tallahassee and wanted them to do well.

For all those that said Bobby should have left a few years ago, the same thing was said about Paterno and he has had some very good seasons lately. Who is to say Bobby could not have assembled another great staff if he stayed and did not have a coach in waiting? Paterno seems to have another very good staff.

I hope Bobby enjoys his retirement and has a long enjoyable life outside of coaching, making the past year a blessing in disguise.

Simple Simon

August 24th, 2010
10:08 am

Flieshman,

Thanks for asking. Richt’s had 7 National Championship season, 5 at FSU, and 2 at Georgia, the 2 at Georgia were in 2002 & 2007.

5IML

August 24th, 2010
10:14 am

(I’m not sure why I’m taking the time to do this. Where is Tide Rising?)

Simple,

The article is about Bowden and BAMA and BAMA’s game against Penn State. Saban is BAMA’s coach and will coach that game. I’m still unclear how you interjected Richt. And, if comparing Richt and Saban isn’t silly (and repetitive) enough, you compare Richt and Bryant. You seem to obsessed with BAMA, not just Saban.

It was time

August 24th, 2010
10:26 am

When Bobby was at the top of his game (up until 2000), he always said that if he started losing 4-5 games a year he would walk away from the game. He did not keep his word and was shown the door. Being beat like a drum six times in a row by your in-state rival doesn’t help matters either.

Joe Pa promoted his son to offensive coordinator as well, once he saw that he was in over his head, he demoted him down to QB Coach. Bobby would never do this to Jeff and only after a 30-0 home loss to Wake Forest, his unqualified son was given a very nice severence package to hit the road. Would Jeff have been promoted to Offensive Coordinator to replace Mark Richt had his name not been Bowden? Could Jeff even landed an interview for OC at any other Div. I school the year Mark left for UGA? Jeff was the WR Coach at FSU only because his Dad was the Coach. Bobby threw a fit when he hit resistance from the FSU to promote his unqualifed son. That was Bobby’s call and it was the beginning of his end at FSU. Had Bobby been given the 2010 season, Chuck Amato would have been the DC, Jody Allen would still be around as well as Dexter Carter. Before Jimbo was hired as OC, Bobby wanted Mickey Andrews to take his place.

The final straw was the comments of Ann Bowden, basically saying that FSU did not have the guts to fire her husband and the FSU needed them a whole lot more than they needed FSU. Bobby would have never walked away from FSU and the folks from UF and Miami would have loved to have seen Bobby coach another 20+ years in Tallahassee. Jimbo Fisher is the next Nick Saben, like it or not. It is very sad to see Bobby turn into a bitter old man, but he will always be one of the best that ever walked a college sideline.

Simple Simon

August 24th, 2010
10:28 am

5IML,

Why are you writing posts about Saban’s doumentary that have no link to Boweden or this article? Talk about trolling.

#2 BAMA FAN

August 24th, 2010
10:37 am

Alabama had a chance to hire Bobby Bowden after Ray Perkins left in 86 and instead Bill Curry became the head coach A BIG MISTAKE!! RTR

Jones

August 24th, 2010
10:38 am

You have to ignore posters like Tide Rising & 5IML, they think every article is about Nick Saban somehow. They post away from the topic as much as possible. Could be the same person.

I’ll check out the book. Bobby Bowden’s impact on college football is enormous. FSU really brought attention to the ACC under his leadership.

producewiz

August 24th, 2010
10:44 am

it’s a young man’s game, that’s just the way it is. You can hear it in Jo Pa’s voice, and kids have a hard time believing 78 or 79 year old coaches are going to be there their whole career.Look at the recruiting Jimbo has started.Gators and FSU will get nasty again