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Thanks For The Memories Bobby Bowden!

Posted on November 30, 2009 by Dean Hybl

Florida vs. Florida State

Word is that Bobby Bowden will retire after 34 years as head coach at Florida State University.

It is never pleasant to watch the end for a legend that hung on too long. Whether it is an athlete like Muhammad Ali, Johnny Unitas or Willie Mays or a coach like Earl Weaver, Tom Landry or Sparky Anderson, the end often temporarily clouds the memories of their supreme greatness.

Such has been the case for legendary football coach Bobby Bowden over the last few years. Once the charismatic leader of a perennial national championship contending squad, recent years have not been kind to this coaching statesman.

Since completing a string of 14 straight seasons with double digit victories and top five finishes in the final national poll in 2000, the Seminoles have struggled to recapture their past magic.

Between 1987 and 2000, the Seminoles went 152-19-1 (.886) with two National Championships. Since 2001, FSU has registered a 73-42 record (.635) with their highest final national ranking being 11th in 2003. They have been particularly pedestrian over the last four years as the Seminoles are 29-22 (.569) since the 2006 season.

A great illustration of how times have changed for the Seminoles can be found in their performance against ACC opponents.

From the time the Seminoles joined the ACC in 1992 through the 2005 season, the Seminoles won the conference title outright 10 times and shared the title two other times. During that stretch they posted a 109-11 record in conference play, including a 78-2 mark from 1992 through 2000. Since 2006, the Seminoles are 16-16 against conference opponents.

Who Is The Greatest College Football Coach of All-Time?

  • Joe Paterno (60%, 18 Votes)
  • Paul "Bear" Bryant (27%, 8 Votes)
  • Bobby Bowden (7%, 2 Votes)
  • Eddie Robinson (7%, 2 Votes)
  • Amos Alonzo Stagg (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 30

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What has made the decline of the Seminoles so tough to watch is that Bowden seems to be powerless in trying to right his once proud program.

Bobby Bowden's final regular season game was a 37-10 loss to Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators.

Bobby Bowden's final regular season game was a 37-10 loss to Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators.

Part of Bowden’s blueprint for greatness has always been surrounding himself with great assistant coaches. Unlike some ego maniac coaches, Bowden was never worried about controlling every aspect of the game. In the hay-day of the Seminoles, Bowden had talented assistants calling the shots while he served as the master conductor.

When some of his long-time assistants began taking head coaching jobs, Bowden struggled to replace them with coaches of the same caliber. Yet, regardless of the ability of his assistants, he continued to give his aides significant responsibilities, especially in creating the offensive game plan.

Once known for having one of the more dynamic offenses in college football, the Seminoles suddenly were no longer capable of scoring points in buckets. After scoring 400 or more points for 16 straight seasons, the Seminoles went four straight seasons without reaching that mark before finally topping 400 points again in 2008.

As the losses started to mount, Bowden’s folksy personality and delegating style of management combined to give the perception that Bowden had become little more than a figurehead for the program while others called the shots. The fact that Bowden was nearing 80 years of age also didn’t help his cause.

Because Bowden has been neck-in-neck with Penn State head coach Joe Paterno in recent years for the record of most Division I-A coaching victories, some have speculated that Bowden was simply holding on to claim the all-time victory record.

While the Seminoles endured a number of minor rules violations and player indiscretions over the years, a major academic scandal in 2007 cast a shadow on the football program and entire athletic department.

Though Bowden and his staff were not directly involved, the violations gave critics more ammunition in their argument that Bowden was no longer in control of his team.

Despite the struggles both on and off the field, Bowden has held on to his job with a tight fist and adamantly insisted that he would walk away on his own terms when he knew it was time.

While he had earned quite a lot of capital over the years, evidently the recent struggles caused him to spend it all. There have been rumblings since early in the season that Bowden needed to walk away. The questions over whether Bowden should be allowed to leave on his own terms threatened to split the university as prominent alumni and administrators came down on both sides of the issue.

It now appears that Bowden’s 34-year tenure at Florida State will end with the 2009 season. Word is that given the choice to either retire now or return in 2010 as little more than a figurehead, Bowden has evidently decided to call it a career.

Regardless how out-of-touch Bowden has seemed to be in recent years, his more than 40-year record of success as a college head coach cannot be diminished. Bowden may ultimately finish second to Paterno in all-time victories, but his success at Florida State deserves to be remembered as one of the best long-term periods of greatness in college football history.

Few in athletics get to go out on their own terms and some will lament the end of Bowden’s tenure, but now that the end is in sight, he deserves to be celebrated and recognized as one of the all-time greats.

Thanks for the memories Bobby, you are an all-time great!

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