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

Google user

August 24th, 2010
11:45 pm

Can anyone use google?

Hey dopehead. It was FSU who did the smoking when they had the 51 pts in 1991 in the big house. You freaking dolt. They put it on Meeecheeeeegan.

PapaDawg

August 25th, 2010
8:17 am

I was wondering, did yaw have more good times or bad times with Coach Bowden. Why all the hate

bigd

August 25th, 2010
8:59 am

Bobby was the last of the coaches with a personality. We’re left with nothing but a bunch of corporate animatrons. FSU is now a business only.

canes rule

August 25th, 2010
12:13 pm

Bowden was cheating the whole time at fsu, covering up player crimes and choking in a bunch of wide right games against the canes. He’s overrated. He won 2 titles, both tainted.

Dgator

August 25th, 2010
2:07 pm

Seminoles should remember Bobby for being scared to join the SEC in 1991, biggest mistake FSU athletics has ever made.

jd

August 25th, 2010
3:06 pm

“One thing Bowden does not do in the book is vent against those who ultimately forced him out at Florida State.”…apparently you missed the TSN interview. Bobby Bowden is a no-class hypocrite who ran the dirtiest program in NCAA football for 30 years running…and got away with it because reporters bought into his “aw-shucks” shtick.

Chuck Finley is forever

August 25th, 2010
6:44 pm

Speaking about FSU, I know i’m about a week late posting on this subject, but I had been in Europe for business.

Who in the heck does this PUNK, James Wilder Jr think he is?! I don’t mind anybody choosing another school over UGA, but the way this kid did it is deplorable! He had his people plant stories that he was choosing UGA, he showed up at his press conference wearing UGA colors, then he pulls out an FSU cap?!

There is a thing called karma and it will come back to bite him! I know he’s suppose to be a RB, but I hope he plays LB and one of the bumble bee’s OLinemen do what they are best at, take out one of his knee’s w/ one of their famous illegal chop blocks ending his career! Then have FSU go on to win the game anyway.

Oh what sweet justice that would be! Talk about killing two birds w/ one stone!

peteralan

August 26th, 2010
7:31 am

Bowden is a great man, He really was not treated well in his last year. He had a big impact on FSU footall. This year will be a big testament to his success. That will be his team playing, the fruits of his labor.

david patsel

August 29th, 2010
8:23 am

Bobby is a good man, but even good men get tunnel vision. No one deserves to “go out on their own terms.” Least of which are coaches. When normal working people who have worked loyally somewhere for 30 years don’t get to go out on their own terms why should Bobby? My point is Bobby and all these coaches hold the schools up for more and more money but don’t think it comes with strings attached? Please. Somebody making 3 or 4 million a year has to know you MUST perform. He didn’t. End of story.

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