He graced the sidelines of Doak Campbell Stadium since 1976. The field inside Doak is aptly named after him and well-deserved. He charmed the media with his, "Aw, shucks..." soft, country accent, sharp wit, and kind demeanor. He was a father and grandfather-like figure to thousands of players throughout his coaching career. He developed boys for the rigors of life.
He molded men.
Bobby Bowden built Florida State football from a lowly Independent team that was on the verge of being disbanded to a national power. Early in his career, he made it known that the Seminoles were willing to play anyone at anytime and opponents took full advantage of his credo. As unfair as it was, no one wanted to play a home-and-home series with FSU when they were on the rise. It was, "Come to our house or we don't play." Bowden knew in order to accelerate the development of his athletes and be a key player in recruiting, he had to oblige to the "superior" football powers of the time. Teams regretted their decision as one after another fell to the then unknown 'Noles.
FSU dominated the college football world toward the end of the 1980's and all through the 90's winning 2 National Championships and garnering the title, "Team of the Decade." All-American after All-American, conference title and conference title, the domination was unheard of for that time in college football history. Bowden was either loved or hated, which is typical for a team of that stature, even to today's standard. People love or loathe the winner, but Bobby took it in stride.
I'm not positive who said it and, off of the top of my head I want to say it was Mack Brown while he was the head coach of North Carolina, but the quote has reverberated throughout Seminole Nation's ears. "How do you stop FSU football? Break up that coaching staff." And that's the start of Bobby's downfall.
Multiple coaches went on to make names for themselves elsewhere, including long time offensive coordinator, Mark Richt, who left for Georgia, and Chuck Amato, who, at the time, was an amazing recruiter in the talent-laden south Florida region, left for his Alma Mater at NC State. What resulted was the most controversial hire in Florida State football history.
Bobby Bowden promoted his wide receivers coach and son, Jeff Bowden, as offensive coordinator. A move that many Seminole fans questioned, many media outlets poked fun at, and it's the move that would bring the mighty Seminoles to their knees. There were other highly regarded candidates available, but Bowden ignored his detractors and went with his unproven son. The 'Noles slipped every year under Jeff, hitting the 10 win mark only once, after previously accomplishing the feat 14 years in a row. Jeff Bowden was criticized over and again, but Bobby continued to back his son, stating he would never fire him. Jeff did the deed for Bobby, resigning after a beat down by a mediocre Wake Forest team at home in '06.
Bobby's leadership skills diminished also, always having to rely on one of his other coaches to take up for his slack. Bobby was no longer the Head Coach, but a figurehead roaming the sidelines aimlessly. He gave his assistants "head coaching" titles, such as Associate Head Coach and Executive Head Coach. There should only be one person with the name "head coach" in their title. It's no wonder why these athletes have looked lost. Zero leadership. They have to listen to six head coaches instead of one. How does the saying go? "Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians?" Horrible trope, but it fits perfectly in this situation. These players need a General and Bobby was no longer the coach to look up to.
Earlier this season, Mickey Andrews retired after his defenses were slipping, especially this season. It was the right move on Andrews part. Bobby and Mickey said that they would gracefully bow out together when the time came.
Today, the legendary coach of the Florida State Seminoles, a truly wonderful man and coach, steps down. Time will tell if this is the right move or just another debacle for the Seminoles, but we'll leave that for another day. Today is Bobby's day. He has been laughed at, blamed, condemned, faulted, and bad-mouthed and the man keeps his head high and walks passed it with dignity and class.
There'll be jerks who want to try and throw in a few last words and that's their prerogative because that's just what jerks do (see my Message Board blog), but no one can take away what Bowden has done for Florida State. No one can steal what he earned. No one can limit his influence on the college football world.
Bobby is college football. Bobby is Florida State. Bobby is legend.
Thank you, Coach Bowden.