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Bowden knows how to coach

Monday, August 22, 2005
Bowden finally gets national title
By Bob Carter
Special to

Signature Game
Jan. 1, 1994 - Jan. 1, 1994 Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden had been there before, so close to a national title. And usually field goals, missed or made, had been the difference.

This time, playing Nebraska and coach Tom Osborne in the Orange Bowl in Miami, Bowden saw his freshman kicker, Scott Bentley, come through. With Florida State down by one point, quarterback Charlie Ward drove the Seminoles 60 yards, setting up Bentley's fourth field goal, a 22-yarder with 21 seconds left for an 18-16 lead.

Over? Not quite. Nebraska's Tommie Frazier threw a second-down pass to Trumane Bell, who was tackled at the FSU 28 as the final seconds ticked off. The Florida State bench erupted, spilling out onto the field, but game officials ruled that one second remained. Enough time for yet another bitter ending for Bowden. "I'm thinking: We're going to lose another chance at a national championship through a doggone kick," he said. But this time, Nebraska's Byron Bennett missed a 45-yarder, wide left, and Bowden had his first title. "My hat's off to Tom [Osborne]," Bowden said. "I know how he feels I've been there."

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Small for his age while growing up, Bowden played many sports at the local YMCA in Birmingham, Ala. At one point, his family lived next to the Woodlawn High School football field, and he and his father would watch practices from its roof.

  • He was a "C" student in high school.

  • In his four years playing football for Howard College, the team went 13-20-1.

  • Bowden majored in physical education and graduated from Howard in 1953. He received a master's degree from Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn.

  • Wife Ann and Bobby had six children. The first, Robyn, was born in 1951.The others: Steve, Tommy, Terry, Jeff and Ginger.

  • Tommy, Terry and Jeff all went into coaching. Tommy and Terry were on the West Virginia team when their dad was the head coach. The two also served as assistants on Florida State's staff under their father.

  • In his first head coaching job at South Georgia Junior College, Bowden was also the school's athletic director, baseball coach and briefly its basketball coach.

  • He wasn't skilled in coaching basketball, so he removed himself from that job. His football teams were 22-11 in four years.

  • Alabama coach Bear Bryant was a big influence on Bowden. While coaching at Howard, Bowden would attend Bryant's spring practices and then copy them. Bryant would recommend that players he couldn't use transfer to Howard.

  • Bowden's first victory as West Virginia's head coach came in 1970, a 49-13 win over William & Mary and coach Lou Holtz, who afterward accused Bowden of running up the score. The two later became close friends.

  • Under Bowden, West Virginia played in the Peach Bowl twice, both times against North Carolina State, losing 49-13 in 1972 and winning 13-10 in 1975.

  • Of the three big-time football schools in Florida, FSU under Bowden was the first to play many of the nation's top programs. Florida coach Charley Pell said Bowden's hiring at Florida State in 1976 was pivotal. "He was the first one to raise the bar, then everyone else [in the Florida tri-rivalry] responded."

  • Florida State lost the Orange Bowl to Oklahoma after an 11-0 regular season in 1979, then went 10-1 the next year before losing an Orange Bowl rematch with the Sooners, 18-17.

  • Seven of the 29 players, including Deion Sanders, in Bowden's 1985 FSU recruiting class went on to the NFL.

  • In late 1986, Bowden interviewed to be head coach at Alabama. When he wasn't immediately offered the job, he withdrew his name from consideration.

  • Bowden's 100th win with Florida State came in 1987 at Florida, 28-14, and ended a six-game losing streak to the Gators. Bowden had started 4-1 against them.

  • He became known as a master of trick plays. Perhaps his most famous was the "punt-rooskie" that the FSU coach used to beat Clemson in 1988. With 1:30 left, the game tied and Florida State facing a fourth-and-four at its 21, the team lined up in punt formation. The ball was snapped to an "up" man. Speedy LeRoy Butler then was slipped the ball between his legs from behind and ran 78 yards to set up the winning field goal.

  • In 1990, Bowden received what essentially was a lifetime contract from Florida State, a package worth about $600,000 annually.

  • In the 1990s, Florida State went 49-1-1 at home and had the best record in the nation at 109-13-1.

  • Bowden's squeaky-clean image was hit hard in 1994 by allegations that his program was out of control. These came after reports of an agent-funded shopping spree by some of his players; cash payments to players from agents; payments for summer work that players didn't do; and a sexual battery charge against a player.

  • The NCAA, in March 1996, ruled that FSU had committed no major infractions but four secondary ones. The NCAA Committee on Infractions reviewed the case and upgraded the secondary infractions to "major" and put the program on one-year probation.

  • In following years, several Florida State players had run-ins with the law.

  • Bowden recruited Randy Moss in 1995, but Moss never played at Florida State. He tested positive for smoking marijuana when he was red-shirting and was dismissed from school.

  • Bowden said he got along with Florida coach Steve Spurrier, but the two had an intense rivalry during the 1990s.

  • He passed his idol, Bryant, in career wins in 2002 when he got No. 324, a 38-31 victory over Iowa State.

  • In September 2004, a Bowden grandson and a former son-in-law were killed when their car crashed on a slick road during Hurricane Frances.

  • In November 2004, FSU renamed its football field Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium.

  • Bowden is an avid golfer who enjoys playing with his sons.

  • He has long been popular as a banquet speaker, often using the same lines time and again, such as: "I see there's a few Auburn folks in the audience, so I'll speak real slowly."

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