Florida State coach Bobby Bowden took some time to sign autographs before and after today's practice. He took the time to visit with some of his former players. And as always, he was gracious with the media after practice, and blended his humor, wit and perspective to address all of the hoopla surrounding his impending retirement following the Gator Bowl.
When asked about all of the events surrounding his final game, including being grand marshal of the Gator Bowl parade, Bowden said:
“As long as it don’t lead to the cemetery. Is there a cemetery out there somewhere? This is something that will be different. At first, I had preferred not to do it but these people have just been so gosh darn good that I felt like I needed to do everything for them I could. I certainly appreciate everything they are doing, but if we were playing for the national championship I would probably say I could not do all this. But the coaches are organized, I told them before we got here that they (the city of Jacksonville) have a lot of events planned for me, since it’s my last game, so I want you all to prepare your practice like you’ll never see me. But I do get to see the practice. They are good enough to get it done.”
That's typical Bowden, and beyond everything he's done for the game, that's what I'll miss most -- his personality. There's been plenty of discussion about whether or not Florida State can beat West Virginia. But even Bowden has shied away from talking about college football's biggest story this year -- his story. Today was his last practice as head coach.
“I haven’t really thought about it until you just mentioned it now," Bowden told reporters. "It is really not on my mind.”
The feeling seems mutual, as fans have already moved on to discussions about Jimbo Fisher's latest hires, the latest superstar recruit to commit and what the team might be capable of in 2010 with Christian Ponder leading the way. It seems as if everyone -- including Florida State -- has already moved on. Fisher already has his first staff meeting planned for when they get back from the bowl game.
Maybe that's when it will really hit everyone -- when Bowden doesn't come back. When he's not in the staff meeting, or his office, or the locker room, or on the practice field.
Win or lose, this Gator Bowl should be about saying goodbye to Bowden, not the final score. While the finality of it all might not be on Bowden's mind or anyone else's right now, it's only a matter of days before it will be. We know Florida State is headed in the right direction so far under Fisher, but it's still hard to imagine a college football Saturday without Bowden.