ATHENS – Bobby Bowden is a whole lot older, but he hasn’t changed a bit.
Bowden, 82, was at Georgia’s football complex Friday morning as the featured speaker for coach Mark Richt’s annual coaches’ clinic. The longtime Florida State coach, who had Richt as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator, for more than a decade, took a few minutes before that appointment to answer questions from the reporters who cover the Bulldogs.
His famous sense of humor was apparent as soon as he entered the interview room, at which time he said, “what are all you idiots doing here?”
AJC columnist Jeff Schultz shared a lot of what Bowden said about drug-testing and the behavior of modern student-athletes in his Friday column. But following is some of the other good stuff Bowden shared as he addressed the group for about 15 minutes:
“That’s all I’m doing now, speaking all the time and playing golf. Gotta get back this afternoon. Got a golf game. Sleep ‘til 12, then it’s time for a nap. Everything’s going pretty good.”
“I don’t talk Xs and Os. I don’t know the Xs and Os anymore. Football just keeps getting more and more sophisticated. It was very simple when I was coaching. So I talk about the experiences I learned that I think will help them.”
“You don’t hardly hear of it anymore. You know I was at Florida State for 34 years. I tried to get another year but I didn’t win enough doggone ballgames. Of course, Joe Paterno had about 60 years at Penn State. I don’t think you’re going to see that anymore. Mark’s time here is probably going to be greater than a lot of the coaches coming along now.
“Coaches are making so much money, the head coach, if they’re successful, that they retire quicker because they can retire quicker. Or they get another job, a more successful job. Yet with the money they’re making, if they don’t win they’re gone. So I don’t think we’re going to see the longevity like we used to see.
“There’s an underlying impatience among administrators caused by pressure from the boosters and the alumni. You’ve got to be lucky to hang on.”
“You never know how an assistant coach is going to do. There are head coaches and there are assistant coaches. There are assistant coaches that are not good head coaches. Then there’s some that can do both. Mark is the kind of guy that can do both. The thing about Mark that is different from most coaches I know is he does it under control. He can control himself. A lot of them can’t.”
“Our society needs it. You need something to try to deter these boys and girls from getting into drugs. It’s all through society. Why are football players worse than everybody else? Everybody else is doing the same dad-gum thing. . . . We all ought to do it. But there’s always going to be some that fall between the cracks.”
“The biggest thing that has hurt our country more than anything in the world is the breakdown of the family. I used to get so many players at Florida State that did not have a daddy. The male figure is missing, and a boy needs a male. They’ve all got these sweet mamas and sweet grandmamas and sweet big sisters, and they need a man pounding on them.”
“I’m fairly well up on it. Mark and I don’t communicate all the time. He’ll call me occasionally with a question and I’ll call him occasionally with a question. But I do read the papers and I do read the news. That’s one thing about it when you retire, you become a laptop operator. So I can get all the information and I try to keep up with all [the schools] really. I spoke at Auburn last night, I spoke at Alabama, I spoke at Tennessee, I spoke at LSU, at things like this clinic. So I enjoy doing it. I do keep up with it.
“There’s no university immune to this. You might think you are. If your university is clean, you better hang loose, because it’s our society today.”
“Mark and I both have a lot of faith. Is that because we’re so good? No, it’s not because we’re so good. It’s because we were raised that way. And I think that gets you through the troubling times.
“I had troubles, too. Y’all have heard of Free Shoes University, haven’t you? I had problems down through the years. In fact, a slogan I used to have on my desk: “This Too Shall Pass.” When Coach tressell had his little problem up there, I wrote him a note. I said, don’t forget now, this too shall pass. And sure enough, in 10 years nobody will remember it.
“That’s what I told my sons. I had three sons that went into coaching. You’re going to get heat and if you can’t handle it you better get out of it.”
“I started my career in Georgia. South Georgia College. I was 25 years old. I was head football coach, athletic director and basketball coach. I fired me in basketball the next year, by the way.
“We won the first game, won the second game, Then I said, ‘golly, we might never lose a ballgame. I might be the next Rockne. We got beat 60-something to nothing the next week. Then I was asking myself, ‘should you be coaching or should you be out of this thing?’ Those are things you learn. . . .
“They tried to fire me up at West Virginia one year. I had a losing year and they tried to fire me. They put the dummy up in the tree and all that. They wanted the real thing but they had to use a dummy.”
“It gets worse every year. There’s so many things they can get into. [But] you’ve got a chance to save them in football. Knowing Mark, knowing Coach Van [Dave Van Halanger], knowing John Eason, boys that used to coach with me, they’re interested in the boy. They’re interested in the boy becoming successful, not just money-wise but education and behaving himself. Boy that’s tough.
“I had six children. They were all different. Some of them that just weren’t going to do what I said to do. Then I had ol’ Tommy, he’s the sweetest kid I had. He would say, Daddy, don’t spank me. I’ll do whatever you say, Daddy. But not Terry. ‘Open that door where I can get out of here. I’ve got some things going on that you ain’t gonna find out about.’
“So anybody that has raised kids knows, it ain’t easy. Try to raise 100 of them.”