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

WonderDawg

August 24th, 2010
1:25 pm

Gotta love little punks calling folks “idiots” on a blog . . .

Tide Rising

August 24th, 2010
1:28 pm

5IML,

A fair comparison would be comparing apples with apples and oranges with oranges. Compare Saban’s stint in 8 years at 2 SEC schools vs Richt’s 9 years at an SEC school and you get a more realistic comparison of the 2. Same size stadiums, same fertile recruiting grounds, same alumni support and rabid fan bases, etc. is the best way to compare SEC coaches and even then I would just compare coaches at the top 6 programs. It would be a lot harder comparing a coach at say UK, Vandy, or Miss. State to a coach at UF, UGA, or Bama. But then I think you, me, and most rational football fans understand this. Most of us anyway but not all.

Tide Rising

August 24th, 2010
1:31 pm

LHardingDawg,

I remember that FSU-Michigan game like it was yesterday. First possession Mich took the ball and drove it the length of the field mostly just running right over FSU. After that FSU changed their defensive alignment or did something but it was on. FSU just beat Michigan like a red headed step child the rest of the day- just whuppped em bad.

Drew

August 24th, 2010
1:39 pm

Bobby Bowden= class, Godliness, and manhood at it’s best

5IML

August 24th, 2010
1:44 pm

TR,

Do you remember BAMA/FSU in ‘07? The first two quarters were the worst half of football in the modern era.

Gator 1

August 24th, 2010
1:48 pm

The old cheater was washed up about 10 years ago, but hung around to collect a few million each year from the florida taxpayers. I will not be buying the geezer’s book.

Gene

August 24th, 2010
1:50 pm

To Tide Rising above. actually, that’s wrong. FSU scored on the second play from scrimmage…see below. Turning point game for the program and really, for the Big Ten. Too slow, too slow…

http://mailer.fsu.edu/~abrady/FSU/Greatest_Game.html

The tone was set early in the game by Seminole great, Terrell Buckley. In front of 106,145 fans — the 4th largest in Michigan history — the 1991 Jim Thorpe Award winner stepped in front of an Elvis Grbac pass and trotted 40 yards for the Seminoles’ first touchdown. This, on the game’s second play from scrimmage! The Wolverines, however, countered with a 13 yard touchdown strike from Grbac to a diving Desmond Howard to even the game.

common sense

August 24th, 2010
1:59 pm

The article is about a good coach and a great man, not about Bama and Georgia. You people are such homers, with the attention span of a Bama player in class.

nittany lion

August 24th, 2010
2:02 pm

Bowden was evil, good has prevailed.

5IML

August 24th, 2010
2:05 pm

I apologize for interjecting BAMA since Bobby didn’t mention growing up a BAMA fan or attending BAMA games as a child or going to the BAMA game against PSU in a couple of weeks.

Bubba

August 24th, 2010
2:12 pm

Bobby Bowden was a good coahc. The fans of UGA should be very rpoud that Coahc Richt got to work tgethr, am shore othr coaches too are proud of chnces tow wotk togeht with Bowden. His sons ar goode coches too.

Ben

August 24th, 2010
2:21 pm

Bowden writes a little about Mark Richt, and how people attribute Bowden’s success to Richt, so I know that kind of bothered him. Bowden says he can see how people come to that conclusion, since FSU’s upswing & downturn coincides almost to the day, of Richt’s hiring & exit. But Bowden assures his readers that Richt’s not the only reason for his success.

Tide rising’s still going on about Saban, trying to find some way, althought it’s not p[ossible, to say Saban’s initial 9 seasons as a head coach were more impressive than Richt’s. No they wern’t. It’s not close.

Ol' Bobby

August 24th, 2010
2:24 pm

Gator 1

Dad Gum!

Still@theBAR

August 24th, 2010
2:26 pm

Richt and the dawgs will play for the MNC this year with their weak schedule. It will be so funny when the face a Real Good Tem for the Tilte and poor UGA VIII will see his first bowl game and a loss too.

Wally's World

August 24th, 2010
2:27 pm

Mark Richt had nice things to say in the book about Bowden, here’s what Richt said:

“Coach Bowden has had an enduring impact on an untold number lives for such a long period of time. Aside from my father, Coach Bowden is the most influential man in my life. I’m certain there are countless others who could say the same thing. Any success I have in the coaching business I owe mostly to Coach Bowden.”

—Mark Richt, Head Coach
University of Georgia

we will dust the fsu dirt off our feet by Ann Bowden

August 24th, 2010
2:41 pm

never has there been a more selfish coach..
his christian testimony is useless
he ruined the lives of 100’s of players

God bless the usa

Tide Rising

August 24th, 2010
2:41 pm

Gene,

I couldn’t remember exactly what happened in that FSU-Michigan game except that Michigan looked pretty impressive after their first drive and then after that FSU just dominated them. It was a great day for southern football.

Tide Rising

August 24th, 2010
2:47 pm

5IML,

Looks like Ben is his latest alias. He’s even used that one before.

Yes. I do remember the first couple qtrs of the FSU game in 07. Saban’s first year and we just flat out didn’t have the athletes that FSU still had. That first half of football and offensive ineptitude was indeed terrible but I think FSU had a lot to do with that also. Be nice to play them more often since there are some ties between the 2 programs.

I don’t know if it was mentioned but Bobby Bowden played for a year or almost a year under Bear. He was kicked off the team by Bear when he found out bobby was married. The bear had a strict policy against married players because he wanted full concentration on football. It may have been only a few games but Bowden was definitely on the team.

Fleischman in Chattanooga

August 24th, 2010
2:55 pm

Simple Simon I am still waiting for an explnation on all those National Championships that Mark Richt has won?

GStateBen

August 24th, 2010
2:57 pm

There are great ties between the Alabama and FSU program and Thank God as someone who’s given up my season tickets to support my own alma mater (Georgia State, thus the nickname) that Jimbo Fisher has the team rolling again. Bobby lost his recruiting touch because he didn’t identify with the players and even worse, he let his young assistants recruit.

I know for a fact that he blew off an in home visit with a recruit (who didn’t sign with FSU the next Feb.) to got a paid booster function. Not acceptable.

Glad Saban’s disciple Jimbo Fisher has the Noles more organized.

Go ‘Noles and GSU – The Movement. Join the Huddle.

AlaNole

August 24th, 2010
2:58 pm

Tide Rising-

Bobby was not kicked off of the Alabama football team. He quit for 2 reasons: 1) he missed his girlfriend back in Birmingham (who he would later marry), so he enrolled at Howard College, 2) he realized he was too small to play QB at Alabama.

He has said in the past that it is the only time he had ever quit anything.

Allstate

August 24th, 2010
3:00 pm

As an Allstate shareholder I am saddened to see Bobby move on. No more “hot Bobby” or Bobby statues tumbling down.

That aside, this is a time for acknowledging a coaching genius. When he came to FSU, the school was an afterthought. He would then schedule anybody at anytime and won, big-time. He also had that Southern “aw shucks, dadgummit attitude which captivated the nation’s press. He, more than any other individual at that school, was responsible for making FSU a major player in college sports.

He was a major success in college football.

That aside, this is a time for acknowledging his hubris and hypocritical ways. He had a lot of thugs in his program and would look the other way if they were his stars. Who can forget Dieon – who was said to not even to attend class during his time there? What about Sebastian Janikwoski with his date-rape drugs and how he was never suspended (Bobby defense was that those Czechs are just different people)? Then there was the whole episode at the Foot Locker for the team members -earning the title of Free Shoes U. The worst (that we know) was the cheating by his players on tests to keep them eligible, His excuse was that he didn’t know about it so it wasn’t his fault – c’mon.

He wore his religion on his sleeve to the public but would look the other way if if endagered a win on the field.

The sad, final chapter was his last few years as “head coach”. He didn’t even know what was going on during a game. They had to have a student follow him around on the sidelines with headphones as he wandered about. All in a desperate attempt to keep pace with Paterno.

In the end, FSU’s administration was forced make the change.

Bobby, I wish you nothing but the best. I guess it proves that you are human as we all but that power, if let unchecked, is a dangerous and sometimes sad, thing.

Tide Rising

August 24th, 2010
3:06 pm

AlaNole,

Okay. I’m just telling you what I read in a book about bear and the author could definitely have gotten it wrong. It was said that bear booted him. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between and Bobby left the team as you said because he wanted to get married and he knew that bear had a policy against having married players. That does sound more plausible especially if that’s what Bobby said happened. Doesn’t really matter. He ended up having a great career regardless of leaving the Alabama team.

Sooner

August 24th, 2010
3:09 pm

Who was better, Bowden or Paterno>

Class AAA

August 24th, 2010
3:12 pm

Was Bowden right about choosing when he retired or was FSU?

Quit Posting Lies

August 24th, 2010
3:14 pm

Wrong!

Bobby Bowden was NOT kicked off the Alabama football team! Some of the stuff posted here is unbelievable.

69dog

August 24th, 2010
3:14 pm

Bobby Bowden sucks. He dodged the SEC. He played a hand selected schedule, where he had many cupcakes between a few mediocre teams. Then, he joined the ACC where the schedule got even easier. He lined up with far superior talent than any team he played. A vastly overated and cowardly coach. May his retirement result in torment.

LHardingDawg

August 24th, 2010
3:27 pm

“May his retirement result in torment” – Who would wish that on anyone? Sad!!!

Ol' Bobby

August 24th, 2010
3:41 pm

69dog,

Dad Gum!

69dog

August 24th, 2010
3:46 pm

Ol’ Bobby received one thousand fold more credit than deserved during his coaching career. I don’t wish him bad health or anything. May his retirement be unnoticed as he should have been.

LHardingDawg

August 24th, 2010
4:03 pm

That’s better 69dog.

lee mackey

August 24th, 2010
4:09 pm

I realize some of you Bowden haters will jump on this, but let me relate one memory I have of the man. I graduated from Birmingham’s Woodlawn High School with him, and etched in my mind is how he handled a classroom situation our senior year. It was a few weeks or so prior to graduation, and I was in a class with him where he had not done well. We were in the midst of taking a big test which he had to pass in order to graduate, and when the teacher was distracted for about 60 seconds, many taking the test jerked out their cheat sheets. Knowing that Bobby needed to make a good grade probably worse than anybody in the room, I looked at him to see what he would do. He did nothing. He squeaked by and made a passing grade – honestly.

Now Bowden haters – go to it. I already know what you’ll say, but my memory of him is that he did the right thing when he could have cheated.

Tide Rising

August 24th, 2010
4:13 pm

Sooner,

Both were outstanding coaches. You could make an equal argument for Bowden or Paterno. Paterno not only won 2 ncs but also had 4 other unbeaten teams that didn’t get no. 1. Bowden had an incredible 14 year run of finishing in the top 5. To me this is a streak of consistency that will never again be equaled. Ever. Both great coaches and its too close to call.

Interesting

August 24th, 2010
4:19 pm

“I’m not surprised one bit that Nick Saban won this award (2009 Coach OY). He should have won it,” Bowden said. “It’s hard for me think that there’s a coach in the country right now better qualified than him, and his record shows it.”

Saban, a native of West Virginia, said the honor was especially meaningful to him because of a gesture Bowden made when Saban was a young assistant coach at Kent State. Bowden was the head coach at West Virginia at the time and knew Saban’s father.

“After my father passed away, my mother was having a lot of problems, and coach Bowden called and said if I needed to come home, he’d create a graduate assistant position for me,” Saban recalled. “I never, ever forgot that, and I don’t think anybody in my family ever forgot it.

“So this is as special an honor as I can get, based on the history that we have with coach Bowden and the class that he has.”

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=5016898

Holtz, a former head coach at N.C. State, Notre Dame and South Carolina, is now a college football analyst for ESPN. He and Bowden spent time with another when Holtz visited Tallahassee in December.

“Bobby’s been a friend of mine since 1961 and we spent our honeymoon with him because he we had no money,” Lou Holtz said. “We spent it with Ann and Bobby and the five children, which is why we only had four.”

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-01-12/sports/os-grid-fsu-beat-0113-20100112_1_rick-trickett-terrell-buckley-jimbo-fisher

Marble Rye

August 24th, 2010
4:38 pm

Bobby blew all his “rights” to leave on his own terms when the academic scandal hit.

AlaNole

August 24th, 2010
5:26 pm

Allstate- I’m not going to argue Bobby’s slap-on-the-wrist approach to punishing players. Although, I do find it odd that people act like he was some renegade while other successful coaches did it from the top of Mt. Integrity. Please.

Realize this: Bobby once had Randy Moss on the roster and kicked him off the team because he got into trouble. Randy Freaking Moss.

Fess Up

August 24th, 2010
6:11 pm

Is anyone surprised? Guess who didn’t make ANY nominations for ESPN commentator (and a lousy one at that) Herbie awards? Yep, that owuld be Georgia or Mark Richt. Well, at least he’s consistent in his blatant anti-Georgia bias. Guess he’ll be surprised when AJ Green makes the top 10 list 3 times. http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/polls?pCat=46&sCat=1458
These ESPN guys, like Mark S, Low, James, Herbstriet, don’t care much for Georgia, the feeling is mutual.

Allstate

August 24th, 2010
6:14 pm

AlaNole -

Before FSU Moss had committed to go t ND. ND dropped him when he got into a big fight at school in WVa.

I have to give Booby credit also with his disarming sense of humor. It bought him a lot. I remember when one of his players was arrested and Bobby said to the press “please Lord let it be a misdemeanor (not a felony)” . If Meyer or Saban would say something like that they would be villified.

Always a nole

August 24th, 2010
7:24 pm

Bobby is one of the greatest coaches ever. Bobby’s first mistake was hiring Jeff as offensive coordinator. We started to decline at that point. I hated like hell to see Bobby leave. But I do believe it was time to move on and get the program back on track. I now fully support Jimbo Fisher and his staff…go noles

UGA thuglover

August 24th, 2010
7:51 pm

hucker

August 24th, 2010
7:58 pm

Bowden OK but many of his wins were against less than D-1 opponents……he would have never caught JoePA.

Yang

August 24th, 2010
8:01 pm

Yang

August 24th, 2010
8:09 pm

A good video clip of Richt talking about how much Bowden influenced him:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3OVXynDdJk&feature=related

Zach Blend

August 24th, 2010
8:44 pm

Coach Bowden will be speaking at the Cherokee County Convention Center on Tuesday, November 9. The event is being thrown by Fellowship of Christian Athletes and will be held in the honor of Goshen Valley Boys Ranch.

For information on attending please contact:

Zach Blend
Zachblend@aol.com

cantondawg

August 24th, 2010
10:11 pm

According to Alabama fans, Alabama would have won 15 National championships in 14 years if Bowden had taken the job in the 1980’s.

Bama fan

August 24th, 2010
10:43 pm

cantondawg,

Jealous are we? Come over and polish my bcs trophy for me boy.

Can any of you guys use google?

August 24th, 2010
11:12 pm

Love the comments about Michigan never scheduling FSU again after losing to them in the Big House in 1986 (by 2 points). FSU went there in 1991 and were smoked.
Try bookmarking Stassen before you post nonsense

http://football.stassen.com/cgi-bin/records/opp-opp.pl?start=1869&end=2009&team1=Florida+State&team2=Michigan

AlaNole

August 24th, 2010
11:17 pm

Allstate-

He was villified in the press for that remark. If I remember correctly, that was after the Peter Warrick “Dillard’s” incident. Of all of Bowden’s disciplinary actions, that was the one I was most critical of. Warrick should have been suspended for the rest of the season.

Paul in RDU

August 24th, 2010
11:17 pm

Paterno vs Bowden. I have to go with JoePa, but I am biased from spending too many years in the snow in NE PA.

Yang

August 24th, 2010
11:29 pm

Gotta love the video NFL Films did on Richt, went through some of his years at Miami, and his successes at FSU.

good video clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=im3XAn_VMd4&feature=related