Wednesday, December 2, 2009


by Mike Freeman


It is always a sad day when you have to say good-bye to a friend--one you spent the last 34 college football seasons with each Saturday. Coach Bobby Bowden will end his 44-year coaching career after the Seminoles' bowl game this winter. He retires as the second-winningest coach in major college football only second to Joe Paterno of Penn State. Coach Bowden recently turned 80 years old in November but we all can only wish we could look that good, or be that good, at any point in our lives, let alone at 80. Just prior to Coach coming to my alma mater, Florida State University, the Seminoles almost were going to do away with the football program. FSU, which began over 100 years ago, was once an all-girls' school and so got a late start compared to cross state rivals, the University of Florida Gators. But that all changed when Bobby Bowden was hired. He brought with him everything one could want for their football team. Great coaching skills, understanding and caring for his players, a loyal family man, and most of all, a proud and loyal Seminole for each of those 34 years.

President of the university, T. K. Wetherell, said of Coach Bowden, "He set records of achievement on the field that will probably never be equaled. Bobby Bowden in many ways became the face of Florida State. It was his sterling personality and character that personified this university." T. K. went to my high school and played football with my husband. He later played under Coach Bowden at F.S.U. and was an assistant coach as well. T. K. is retiring this year as well, however, under his own terms...unlike what Coach Bowden was able to do.

Coach Bowden today said, "You know something like this is going to happen. If it didn't happen now it would be happening this time next year, but it's happening now," Bowden said. "As long as my family is happy, that's the main thing. So I'll go out and make a lot of talks now and tell everybody how good I was." Always pleasant, positive, and with a sense of humor AND class!

Under Coach Bowden Florida State won 2 National Championships in the 1990's. Also, his one perfect season came in 1999 when FSU made history as the Seminoles became the first team to go wire-to-wire in The Associated Press poll ranked No. 1 from the preseason to finish.

But with all these trophies, honors, Heisman players, etc., the thing people loved best about Coach Bobby Bowden was the man he was. His down home charm I heard someone say today was what made him THE top recruiter of all time. I would surely agree! It is said that Coach Bowden could walk into a young high school football stars' home to recruit and face an unsure young man and two suspicious "this is our son" parents, and walk out with leftovers and a recipe of Mom's peach cobbler and the dad carrying the son's suitcase to put in Coach Bobby's car. A man of faith, with his wife Ann always supportive, strong, and protective by his side, Coach Bowden IS what makes FSU what it is today.

Now, who knows? I am still a Seminole through and through, but today I am embarrassed to say that because my school let me and scores of people down--but one in particular the most. A man who allowed the university to hire the next coach to run offense with the promise that he would take over in 2011 or before if Coach Bowden wanted to leave sooner. Coach Bowden knew the last few years had not been the best. Sure, many reasons play into it. I think the biggest reason is, especially since FSU went into the ACC, other schools began to emulate and copy the success pattern Coach Bowden had. Instead of FSU taking hold of the ACC and remaining on top forever, like they did the first few years, FSU taught the other schools to rise to the challenge and become formidable competitors.

Hardest to believe in my naive mind is that the people who praised Bobby Bowden, who credited him with all the school's success, who loved to dole out the big money to sit in the best seats or attend parties or luncheons where Coach Bowden spoke or attended as honored guest...that these are the people who abandoned him first. With all he has done for FSU, the lack of respect shown to a man of his stature makes me sad...and really sad for them and angry at them.

In our society, unlike others around the world, more and more we see how little we respect the wisdom of older people and how little respect we give them. If nothing else, this man should have been given the respect he deserved and been allowed to call it quits on his own terms. After losing to the #1 team in the country, the University of Florida, this past weekend--no surprise to any of us and especially with our star quarterback injured a few weeks ago and out for the season--Coach answered the rumors of "would he retire". He KNEW the team he had recruited. He painfully has watched them little by little start to exhibit the talent of earlier years. It will be no surprise if FSU has a much better year next year---one that Coach Bowden wanted to make his that would have ended I'm sure under his guidance, with a better year, and one where he would have walked out the way he wanted. Instead he was degraded by an offer that said he
could stay but take a lesser role...meaning he would still be called "Head Coach" but really would have little power---all that would go to the incoming head coach, Jimbo Fisher.

And so I guess this is about as far away from a regular post that I have ever had...but there it is. A sad day for me, for many..a great loss. But the class act that IS Coach Bobby Bowden met with his players, told them and then went right into one of his famous motivational speeches before things got too sad in the locker room. He has already stated to Jimbo Fisher that...."I wish him luck and I'll do anything I can to help him and Florida State. I'll just be pulling so hard for Florida State, especially these boys next year." And that is because those boys are like sons to him----that is Bobby Bowden and what separated him all these years from other fine coaches--his love for his players.

In his statement today, you see that, as he gives credit to his players when he said, "You can't have a successful program without players and we have been blessed to have young men who are winners both on and off the field," Bowden said in his statement. "I want to thank them and their families for committing 4-5 years of their lives to me and to FSU." Coach Bowden has said he hopes to coach in a bowl game IN our state of Florida which will take some respect from some other coaches as technically FSU should be heading somewhere like California for a bowl game instead of Jacksonville or Orlando...perhaps his peers will honor him with at least making that come to be.

Always with a joke, good humor, and a smile, he said, "After you retire, there's only one big event left," Bowden has said over the years. "And I ain't ready for that."....none of us our Coach Bowden. May your richly deserved years of retirement with Ann be healthy and happy...just as happy for you as you have made me for all these years! Thanks, Coach!

Please take time to watch the short video from ESPN today. Also you can click on the Seminole symbol above if you want a chance to win one of the WONDERFUL books about Coach Bowden. Thank you my blog friends and followers for your time in reading this post.


g.g. said...

You have certainly hit the nail on the head about our society not respecting their elders as many others do. I also think by reading this and the news that the coach was not treated with the respect he deserved. Let's hope he has a long and peaceful retirement with his loving wife and family.

bermudaonion said...

I lived in Auburn and Terry Bowden was the coach when we moved there. People would brag about knowing him or seeing him. Once the school fired him, I never heard his name again. Football fans are very fickle. I have this book and think I need to read it soon in light of Bowden's retirement.

Ladytink_534 said...

Wow great post! I've never payed any attention to sports (but I like movies like Remember the Titans, go figure) so I've never heard of him before.