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Bobby Bowden, folksy coach of Florida St dynasty, dies at 91

Bobby Bowden did all of it.

Bobby Bowden did all of it.

Not solely did he put Florida State on the map by taking the Seminoles from afterthought to dynasty, he left an indelible mark on the sport with a uncommon mixture of teaching acumen, gracious demeanor and a compassion for these he coached and competed towards.

The beloved, folksy Corridor of Fame coach who constructed one of the crucial prolific faculty soccer applications in historical past died early Sunday at 91 at his house in Tallahassee, Florida, surrounded by his spouse Ann and their six youngsters following a battle with pancreatic most cancers. Bobby’s son, Terry, referred to as his passing “really peaceable.”

And whereas he’s gone, Bowden’s legacy as a top-notch coach — and human being — will dwell on.

The numbers are staggering: Bowden piled up 377 wins throughout 40 years as a significant faculty coach and his groups gained a dozen Atlantic Coast Convention titles and nationwide championships in 1993 and 1999. Maybe the statistic that jumps off the web page is his sustained success with Florida State, which completed the season ranked within the prime 5 of The Related Press faculty soccer ballot an unmatched 14 straight seasons (1987-2000) below his tutelage.

Bowden’s legacy cannot simply be informed in numbers.

“This man was most likely the best ambassadors of all time as a result of he had success teaching, however he was additionally one of many biggest individuals and set an excellent instance for everybody in our career by way of you don’t need to dislike any individual, you don’t need to discredit any individual that you simply’re competing towards,” Alabama coach Nick Saban mentioned. “That instance of being a very good particular person is one thing that may assist us all professionally. He wasn’t at all times nearly him; he was at all times about serving to different individuals.”

Bowden, a religious Christian, mentioned final month after saying he had a terminal sickness he had at all times tried to serve God’s objective and he was “ready for what’s to come back.”

“My spouse, Ann, and our household have been life’s biggest blessing,” he mentioned then.

Bowden added that he was “at peace.” Maybe that’s as a result of he had completed a lot in what Saban referred to as “a life remarkably effectively lived.”

Bowden was beloved by Seminoles followers, revered by his friends and all through his life one of the crucial accessible stars in faculty soccer. His house quantity was listed within the Tallahassee telephone guide for years.

Information of his loss of life unfold rapidly. Flowers, lots of them in Florida State’s garnet and gold colour scheme, adorned the statue of Bowden outdoors of Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee and coach Mike Norvell addressed gamers about Bowden earlier than a morning follow.

Assistant head coach Odell Haggins, who performed and coached below Bowden, praised his pal for being a hard-nosed competitor, but additionally a compassionate coach.

“He by no means talked about successful the sport. He at all times talked about saving lives. And that’s the factor I hope all people sees (with) him,” Haggins mentioned. “You recognize, they discuss what number of soccer video games he gained. You speak concerning the nationwide championships he gained. However take a look at what number of lives he gained. Have a look at what number of lives he saved.”

Bowden retired following the 2009 season with a Gator Bowl win over West Virginia in Florida State’s twenty eighth straight postseason look, a victory that gave him his thirty third consecutive successful season. A month after he resigned, the NCAA stripped Florida State of victories in 10 sports activities due to an educational dishonest scandal in 2006 and ’07 involving 61 athletes.

Nonetheless, solely Penn State’s Joe Paterno is credited with successful extra video games (409) as a significant faculty soccer coach. Bowden’s win complete ranks fourth throughout all divisions in faculty soccer historical past.

Bowden was changed in 2010 by his offensive coordinator, Jimbo Fisher, who had been Bowden’s replacement-in-waiting.

“He’s one of many nice human beings that’s ever coached and one of many nice coaches that’s ever coached,” Fisher mentioned.

Bowden gained the nationwide championship in 1993 with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Charlie Ward and once more in 1999 along with his second Heisman winner, quarterback Chris Weinke, and All-American receiver Peter Warrick.

The Seminoles have been a contender to win the title each season for greater than a decade. Florida State misplaced nationwide championship video games towards Florida, Tennessee and Oklahoma and narrowly missed out on the taking part in for titles in a number of different seasons due to losses to archrival Miami.

Bowden, actually, as soon as quipped that his gravestone would learn, “However he performed Miami,” a one-liner that got here the day after the Hurricanes escaped with a 17-16 win in 1991 when the Seminoles missed a discipline purpose huge proper within the last seconds. Miami additionally gained in comparable style in 2002 when a field-goal attempt went huge left, a lot to Bowden’s chagrin.

Florida State dominated the ACC below Bowden, successful championships in 12 of its first 14 seasons after becoming a member of the league in 1992.

“Bobby Bowden has meant the whole lot to Florida State athletics and a lot to school soccer generally,” Florida State athletic director David Coburn mentioned. “He is part of the center and soul of FSU, however it goes past even that — he’s an enormous a part of the historical past of the sport.”

Bowden was additionally the patriarch of school soccer’s most colourful teaching household. Son Tommy Bowden had a 90-49 report at Tulane and Clemson, and Terry was 47-17-1 at Auburn. One other son, Jeff, served 13 years teaching huge receivers for his father at Florida State and 6 seasons as offensive coordinator earlier than he resigned in 2006 after Florida State’s offense slumped to its lowest manufacturing in 1 / 4 century.

Bobby Bowden left West Virginia to take over a Florida State program in 1976 that had produced simply 4 wins the three earlier seasons. The Seminoles went 5-6 in Bowden’s first yr and by no means once more skilled a shedding season with him in cost.

“You face comparable duties of motivation, preparation, teamwork, self-discipline,” Bowden mentioned. “I most likely get essentially the most satisfaction out of placing within the methods and watching them play out.”

By 1979, Bowden had Florida State positioned for one of many nice runs within the annals of school soccer.

Led by All-American nostril guard Ron Simmons, the Seminoles loved an 11-0 common season however misplaced to Oklahoma within the Orange Bowl. In 1993, regardless of a late slip at Notre Dame, Florida State gained its first nationwide title after practically getting there in 1987, 1988, 1991 and 1992.

Bowden’s lone excellent season got here in 1999 when the Seminoles grew to become the primary workforce to go wire-to-wire in The Related Press rankings, No. 1 from the preseason to complete.

“The primary championship was extra of a aid,” Bowden mentioned. “I believe I used to be capable of take pleasure in the second a bit extra.”

Success additionally introduced a obtrusive highlight and Bowden’s program was touched by scandal on a couple of events. The college was placed on NCAA probation for 5 years after a number of gamers in 1993 accepted free footwear and different sporting items from a neighborhood retailer. The episode led former Florida coach Steve Spurrier to dub FSU “Free Footwear College.”

Bowden prided himself on giving gamers a second probability, however critics mentioned he was gentle on self-discipline with a watch on successful video games.

“If quick hair and good manners gained soccer video games, Military and Navy would play for the nationwide championship yearly,” Bowden retorted.

Randy Moss, one of the crucial gifted athletes to attend Florida State, by no means performed a down for the Seminoles and was kicked out of faculty after a redshirt season for smoking marijuana. In 1999, Warrick was caught in a procuring rip-off that led to his suspension for 2 video games and possibly value him the Heisman Trophy that yr.

“There’s solely about 6 inches that turns that halo right into a noose,” Bowden was fond of claiming through the good days, when he was usually referred to as “Saint Bobby” by the Florida State devoted.

The Seminoles gained 10 or extra video games in 18 of Bowden’s 34 seasons at Florida State, however have been a comparatively mortal 74-42 on the sector from 2001-09.

The dishonest scandal that led to the lack of a dozen wins from Bowden’s last resume occurred in a web based music historical past course from the autumn of 2006 by means of summer time 2007. The NCAA mentioned some athletes have been supplied with solutions to exams and in some circumstances, had papers typed for them.

Bowden stayed within the public eye after retirement, writing a guide, making speeches and going public along with his remedy for prostate most cancers in 2007. His concern of retiring from teaching resulted partly from the loss of life of his longtime idol, former Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who died inside weeks of leaving the sidelines.

“After you retire, there’s just one massive occasion left,” Bowden regularly mentioned.

Bowden stayed energetic into his 80s, lastly slowing down over the past yr or so. He was hospitalized in October 2020 after testing constructive for COVID-19. The take a look at got here a couple of days after he returned house from a protracted hospital keep for a leg an infection.

Born Nov. 8, 1929, in Birmingham, Alabama, Robert Cleckler Bowden overcame rheumatic fever as a baby to quarterback Woodlawn Excessive Faculty in Birmingham, then attended Alabama for a semester earlier than transferring again to his hometown Howard School, the place he starred at quarterback.

He married his childhood sweetheart, Ann, and so they stayed collectively for 72 years.

Bowden constructed the Florida State program by scheduling the hardest opponents he might discover, and he’d play them wherever, normally at their stadium. He was dubbed “King of the Highway” in 1981 after taking part in consecutive street video games at Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and LSU — and successful three of the 5.

His daring play-calling additionally earned him the nickname Riverboat Gambler in some quarters. Bowden’s most well-known trick play got here in 1988 at Clemson. He despatched his punt workforce onto the sector with 1:33 left in a tie recreation with a fourth-and-4 and the ball at Florida State’s 21. Florida State’s punter leaped excessive into the air and acted as if he have been chasing down a excessive snap whereas the upback took the ball and slipped it between his legs the place LeRoy Butler grabbed it and raced 78 yards to the Clemson 1 to arrange the successful discipline purpose.

“We have been decided any individual was going to win that recreation,” Bowden mentioned after the “Puntrooskie.”

By Bowden’s profession, Florida State gained video games in lots of the nation’s hardest stadiums, together with at Michigan, Southern California and, in fact, rivals Florida and Miami. In 1987, the Seminoles crushed Massive Ten champion Michigan State 31-3 at East Lansing and whipped Southeastern Convention champion Auburn on its house discipline, 34-6.

Bowden additionally was thought of top-of-the-line handlers of nice particular person abilities, recruiting and growing the likes of Simmons, Ward, Weinke, Warrick, Butler and Deion Sanders, who earned the nickname “Prime Time” throughout his days as a Seminole.

“God bless the Bowden Household, Associates & Family members,” Sanders posted on Twitter. “I’ve misplaced 1 of the most effective coaches I’ve ever had.”

Florida State’s recruiting lessons have been practically at all times among the many prime nationally. By the Nineteen Nineties, the Seminoles poured star expertise into the NFL on an annual foundation, together with 4 of the highest 19 picks within the 2006 draft the identical yr Bowden was elected to the School Soccer Corridor of Fame.

Each coaches who birthed faculty soccer powerhouses in Florida through the Nineteen Eighties have died this yr. Howard Schnellenberger, who led Miami to its first nationwide championship in 1983, died in March at 87.

Bowden is survived by spouse Ann; sons Terry, Tommy, Jeff and Steve; and daughters Robyn Hines and Ginger Madden. Providers have been scheduled for Saturday on the Donald L Tucker Middle, Florida State’s basketball area.


AP Sports activities Author John Zenor in Alabama, AP School Soccer Author Ralph D. Russo in New York, AP freelance author Bob Ferrante in Tallahassee, Florida, and former AP Sports activities Deputy Editor John Affleck contributed to this report.

Steve Reed, The Related Press

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