Our First Season Without Bobby Bowden
This college football season is upon us and we’re about to embark in another battle for who’s going to be ranked in the top 10 to start the season and who are the favorites to win this year’s National Championship. College football fans would be remiss if they didn’t take pause and reflect on the man that was Bobby Bowden, head football coach of the Florida State Seminoles for 33 seasons. Bobby B was one of the most influential men in the history of collegiate sports and he made men better just having been in his company then when they first came into his program.
He was a fiery, “rah rah” kinda guy, and he would get behind his players like a grizzly bear gets behind her cubs. He finished his career with the second most victories in the history of Division 1 college football, and that’s saying a lot with the likes of Nick Saban, Lou Holtz and Bear Bryant.
Bowden’s Locker Room Speech
I once watched him give a halftime speech in the locker room. I was shooting for a Nike campaign that they were doing with some of the top college coaches. Coach Bowden started shouting out to his players “you quarterbacks need to throw the darn ball!” and then to his running backs “you running backs need to run the dang ball!” and then finally to his wide receivers “you receivers need to catch the darn ball!” Then he said “I mean what are we guys paying you for?!” After a 2 second pause, he quickly said, “Wait a minute, we ain’t paying you and don’t tell anybody we are.”
All of the players in the locker room busted out laughing and everybody started getting hyped up and ready for the second half. The team went on to defeat their opponent that day. He was always a gentleman to the media, even in defeat (google “wide left”).
One Of The Greatest Coaches In The Game
In 44 years as a Head Coach (34 years at Florida State) Bowden racked up 377 Division 1 wins between stints at Howard University, West Virginia and Florida State University. The 377 victories led him to 3rd in the Division 1 All-Time list. He stands among the greatest coaches in the game behind only Eddie Robinson at Grambling and Joe Paterno at Penn State.
The next closest active Division 1 head coach is Nick Saban with 256 victories while coaching between LSU and Alabama. Coach Bowden brought not one championship but two to the Nol’s with an Associated Press and Coaches Poll National Title in 1993 and the BCS National Championship in ’99.
Bowden also groomed his replacement when he retired, spending his final couple seasons mentoring the future long-term coach for the Seminoles, Jimbo Fisher, to take his place. He did it all for Florida State. He sent 11 of his former assistant coaches on to be NCAA Division 1 Head Coaches. He also saw one of his student athletes, Myron Rolle, was named Rhodes Scholar for academics in 2009.
In the SEVEN decades that Bobby Bowden coached college football, he very rarely got caught up in scandals, violations or issues that would call his character into question. In a time where almost every major college university seems to have difficulties of some kind, Coach Bowden did better than most. College football will go on, but it is now missing one more great teacher, leader, gentleman and friend with the loss of Coach Bobby Bowden. May you rest in peace, Coach Bowden.
*All photos by Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images