By: Tony Thomas Legendary Florida State Head Football Coach Bobby Bowden was a man of God, who had a strong belief in his Christian faith and had a wit and charm about him. Sadly, Coach Bowden passed away on Sunday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 91.
Bobby Bowden-A Coach and a Father Figure
Coach Bowden motivated his players not by intimidation or fear, but through love and compassion. Love for his players, love for his assistant coaches, love for Florida State University.
He knew something about every one of his players and was a father figure to them all.
Coach Bowden took over as head coach at FSU in 1976 and posted a 315-98-4 coaching record, 12 ACC titles, and two national titles in 1993 and 1999. He led the Seminoles to 14 consecutive Top Ten finishes and 27 consecutive bowl game appearances.
He was regarded as one of the best recruiters in college football, and if he was in a recruit’s living room with mom and dad, more often than not that recruit gave his commitment and signed with the Seminoles.
His first “BIG” recruit was Ron Simmons out Warner-Robbins (GA) High School. Simmons played nose guard for FSU from 1977-1980. He was a two-time Consensus All-American and helped lead the Seminoles to a 39-8 record, two top-ten finishes, and two Orange Bowl appearances during his time there.
He later went on to become a professional wrestling champion.
Simmons had his #50 jersey retired in 1988 and was inducted into the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame (2008).
Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime
There are many college football teams who have the mindset that they will play anybody, anywhere, at any time. Arguably, none personified that belief more than Florida State.
In 1981, the ‘Noles played five straight road games in the month of October: at #17 Nebraska, at #7 Ohio State, at Notre Dame, at #3 Pitt, and at LSU. They won three of those five games, beating Ohio State, Notre Dame, and LSU.
Take a look at Coach Bowden’s teams below and the Murder’s Row schedule of top teams they played in the regular season at the beginning of their heyday in the 1980s through the decade of the 90s:
1982 9-3 record, #13 in the final AP Poll
vs #2 Pitt, lost 37-17
@Ohio State, won 34-17
@#16 Miami, won 24-7
@#12 LSU, lost 55-21
1983 7-5 record, unranked at the end of the season
@ #13 LSU, won 40-35
@#10 Auburn, lost 27-24
@#6 Miami, lost 17-16
@#12 Florida, lost 14-53
1984 7-3-2 record, #17 ranking in the final AP Poll
@#14 Miami, won 38-3
vs #16 Auburn, lost 42-41
@#5 South Carolina, lost 38-26
vs #3 Florida, lost 27-17
1985 9-3 record, #15 final ranking in the final AP Poll
@#10 Nebraska, won 17-13
@#12 Auburn, lost 59-27
vs #11 Miami, lost 35-27
@ #6 Florida, lost 38-14
1986 7-4-1 record, unranked at the end of the season
@#8 Nebraska, lost 34-17
@#5 Michigan, lost 20-18
@#1 Miami, lost 43-21
1987 11-1 record, #2 ranking in the final AP Poll
vs #3 Miami, lost 26-25
@#6 Auburn, won 34-6
1988 11-1 record, #3 ranking in the final AP Poll
@#6 Miami, lost 31-0
@ #3 Clemson, won 24-21
@#15 South Carolina, won 59-0
1989 10-2 record, #3 ranking in the final AP Poll
vs Southern Miss, lost 30-26
vs #10 Clemson, lost 34-23
@#21 LSU, won 31-21
@#17 Syracuse, won 41-10
@#11 Auburn, won 22-14
@#12 Miami, won 24-10
1990 10-2 record, #4 final ranking in the final AP Poll
@#9 Miami, lost 31-22
@#5 Auburn, lost 20-17
@#6 Florida, won 45-30
1991 11-2 record, #4 ranking in the final AP Poll
#19 BYU, won 44-28
@#3 Michigan, won 51-31
@#10 Syracuse, won 46-14
@#2 Miami, lost 17-16
@#5 Florida, lost 14-9
1992 11-1 record, #2 ranking in the final AP Poll. 1st year in the ACC
@#2 Miami, lost 19-16
@#6 Florida, won 45-24
1993 12-1 record, National Champions
@#3 Miami, won 28-10
@#2 Notre Dame, lost 31-24
@#7 Florida, won 33-21
1994 10-1-1 record, #4 in the final AP Poll
@#13 Miami, lost 34-20
vs Notre Dame, won 23-16
vs #4 Florida, tie 31-31
1995 10-2, #4 ranking in the final AP Poll
@#3 Florida, lost 35-24
1996 11-1 record, #3 ranking in the final AP Poll
@#6 Miami, won 34-16
vs #1 Florida, won 24-21
1997 11-1 record, #3 ranking in the final AP Poll
@#23 USC, won 14-7
@#10 Florida, lost 32-29
1998 11-2 record, #3 ranking in the final AP Poll
vs #14 Texas A&M, won 23-14
vs #18 USC, won 30-10
@#4 Florida, won 23-12
1999 12-0 record, National Champions
vs #19 Miami, won 31-21
@#3 Florida, won 30-23
2000 11-2 record, #5 ranking in final AP Poll
@#7 Miami, lost 27-24
vs #4 Florida, won 30-7
Under Coach Bowden, the Seminoles posted 14 consecutive Top 5 finishes from 1987-2000.
If there was one opponent who was a thorn in Bobby Bowden’s side, a monkey wrench in the works, who caused a well-oiled game plan to come off the rails, it was the Miami Hurricanes.
From 1985-1992, FSU beat the ‘Canes only once. And, a lot of those losses kept the ‘Noles out of the National Championship game.
Two of those losses were the result of missed field goals in the closing seconds of the game.
His Players Were His “Kids”
As a result of his prowess on the recruiting trail, Coach Bowden coached 26 Consensus All-Americans and two Heisman Trophy winners: QB Charlie Ward in 1993 and QB Chris Weinke in 2000. He also coached other standout players who won some of college football’s most prestigious awards.
Some of those standout players for Coach Bowden through the years include:
CB Deion Sanders
LB Derrick Brooks
RB Warrick Dunn
QB Charlie Ward
QB Chris Weinke
WR Peter Warrick
OT Walter Jones
S LeRoy Butler
LB Peter Boulware
QB Brad Johnson
WR Anquan Boldin
WR Laveranues Coles
LB Ernie Sims
S Dexter Jackson
K Sebastian Janikowski
DT Corey Simon
OT Tra Thomas
WR Javon Walker
DB Myron Rolle
Like Father, Like Son
Three of Coach Bowden’s sons followed in his footsteps and became coaches. Tommy Bowden was a head coach at Tulane and Clemson and led the Tulane Green Wave to an undefeated season in 1998.
Terry Bowden coached at Salem College, Samford, Auburn, North Alabama, and Akron. Terry coached Auburn to an undefeated season (11-0) in 1993. He will be the head coach of Louisiana-Monroe when the 2021 season kicks off.
Jeff Bowden was a wide receivers coach on his dad’s team for several years.
The Legacy of Bobby Bowden
Bobby Bowden was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. He was a coach and leader of men for 44 years. During his tenure in Tallahassee, 28 of his 34 FSU teams were ranked in the polls.
In those 44 years, he accumulated 389 wins (the NCAA recognizes 377 wins), 129 losses, and four ties.
In the 1979, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1996, and 1999 seasons, he was named National Coach of the Year.
His wit and charm made people gravitate toward him. He never met a stranger, and from that first meeting, he always remembered your name.
The fact that he loved his players and taught them how to be men of character away from the football field inspired his players to run through walls for him and work hard to be the best football players they could be on the field.
Early in his FSU career, he had opportunities to leave and coach other programs. But he knew it was his destiny to coach the Florida State Seminoles football program to greatness.
College football fans and the sports world lost a great man on Sunday. I don’t know if there will ever be another college football coach like Bobby Bowden. And maybe that’s the way it should be.
Rest in peace Coach.