Bobby Bowden's Legacy Reaches From The State Of Florida And Beyond

Bryan FlynnAnalyst IOctober 29, 2009


Florida State took some of the heat off their embattled coach with a come from behind victory over North Carolina. The Seminoles have a chance get their record back to .500 with a win over North Carolina State.

While there is time to turn this season around, only Bobby Bowden and the university know if he will coach past this season. This has been the toughest season on the 79 year old Bowden.

If Bowden does not comeback for the 2010 season, we know his place in Florida State football lore is cemented. Still, Bowden’s reach should be documented beyond just what he has done in Tallahassee.

While Bowden is not the only reason here are some other parts of the country that owe Bowden thanks.


Bowden’s FSU made Florida and Miami better

That statement might look ridiculous looking at the Gator and Hurricane programs compared to Florida State’s program. But before everyone gets up in arms, let me explain—first starting with Florida.

When Bowden was hired by FSU in 1976 and was starting to build his program, the Gators were entering a nice winning stretch themselves. From 1976 to 1989 Florida only won eight or more games six times.

The Gators played in eight bowls and only won three of them. While at FSU, Bowden had 10 seasons of eight or more wins and played in 11 bowls with only two losses and one tie.

During this time, Florida held their own against the Seminoles going 7-7 against Florida State, but the Gators did not receive the national attention that the Noles did. Florida had not even won an SEC championship in football and they were a charter member in to the conference in 1932.

Everything changed for the Gators in 1990 when they hired their former Heisman trophy winning quarterback Steve Spurrier has head coach. Florida has gone on to win eight conference titles, produce three Heisman trophy winners, and take home three national championships.

Yes, the SEC turned into the best conference in college football from 1990 until now. There have been three or four SEC teams to win national championships over the same time period.

Still, one has to give credit to the work Bowden was doing at Florida State. Now the Florida and Florida State is a national game. This rivalry would not be what it is today without Bowden turning FSU in to a national powerhouse.

Putting more pressure on Florida was Miami, turning itself into a powerhouse program about the same time Bowden was building his. The Hurricanes and the Seminoles built their programs by recruiting the rich talent in the state of Florida.

The Miami and Florida State game has transcended to a national game—due in part to the job Bowden has done while at FSU. These two programs have combined to win seven national championships.

At a time when only LSU and Alabama were national powers in the south, these two universities helped change that. It can now be said each year that the road to the national championship leads through the Sunshine State at some point.

Miami would be a great program no matter what, but the rise of Florida State helped the Hurricanes achieve even more. The Seminoles also need the Hurricanes to help raise their exposure the same way the Gators needed FSU.

Even now, South Florida and Central Florida gain more respect for beating a Bowden coached team then beating a Miami or Florida team. Bowden has set the gold standard for all the teams in the State of Florida.



Bowden’s FSU made the ACC a power conference and forced expansion

The ACC as a conference has always had plenty of tradition and prestige. What the conference did not have was a bell cow to garner attention nationally.

That changed when Florida State became the ninth member in 1991. While Clemson won a national title in 1981 and Georgia Tech won a title in 1990, there was no truly dominate team in the ACC.

The Seminoles made the ACC an instant national power in football. The conference was already a power in basketball. The addition of Florida State to the conference made it much more appealing to the rest of the country.

One problem did arise from the addition of FSU to the ACC. When it joined the conference in 1992, the Seminoles dominated. Florida State won every conference championship from 1992 to 2000 and national titles in 1992 and 1999.

In 2001, Maryland was able to break the Seminoles strangle hold of the conference. When Florida State joined the ACC, they went on to win 29 straight ACC games. Virginia's 33-29 win over FSU made them the first team to ever beat the Seminoles in ACC play.

Still, from 1992 to 2003, FSU would win 90 out of 96 games in ACC play. Only North Carolina State seemed to frustrate Florida State, winning three of the six games the Seminoles lost their first 11 years in the ACC.

The conference became known as Florida State and the eight dwarfs. While the ACC became FSU’s stomping ground, the SEC expanded to 12 teams to allow it to play a conference title game and rake in the money because of it.

Looking to replicate the SEC, the ACC sought to expand itself. The thought was expansion would make the conference competitive and make a ton of money like the SEC did.

So the conference was able to lure Miami and Virginia Tech in 2004 and Boston College in 2005 from the Big East.  Virginia Tech, which played Florida State for the 1999 national title was able to win the 2004 ACC championship.

When the conference was first able to hold a championship game in 2005, it was fittingly won by Florida State over Virginia Tech. Since the 2005 season, FSU has yet to play in the conference title game.

While expansion has been a mixed blessing so far for the ACC, since 2005 it has made the conference more competitive. Every school in the conference has upgraded talent since Florida State joined the ACC.

Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgia Tech, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland have all benefited from Florida State joining the ACC. Duke academic standards have kept them from improving as greatly as the other conference teams before expansion.

The move from the Big East to the ACC allowed Boston College and Virginia Tech to gain a foothold in the talent rich state of Florida. Miami got to leave a conference it was unhappy with as a result of being dissatisfied with its leadership.

The ACC is one of the most competitive conferences in the country. While expansion has been a mixed blessing, this mainly has to do with the down turn of both Miami and Florida State.

Greatness returned to Miami this year, and the chance of Florida State to return to greatness will be present next year. Along with Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, this conference can become the super conference it was supposed to be.



Bowden’s FSU helped the South become the dominate football region of the country

The South has always played good football and has always had some of the best talent in the country.  What the South did not have was a dominate team outside of Alabama on a consistent biases.

The rise of Florida State coincided with the rise of Miami. The Seminoles and the Hurricanes brought added attention to the South.

FSU's rise helped cause the rise of Florida and the ACC schools, along with the SEC expansion which helped Tennessee and LSU’s return to dominance as well.

Bobby Bowden’s work at Florida State helped make not only the state of Florida a football mecca, but the rest of the South as well. The blueprint used by Bowden to build up the Seminoles was copied all along the South.

Even to this day, programs looking to build a football tradition and a winning program use Bowden’s method of playing anyone, anytime, anywhere. Keeping local and in-state talent from leaving, retaining assistant coaches, and not being afraid to run trick plays against teams with more talent.

Bowden does not have to worry about getting the best talent in all the country now. The program still will play anyone in the country anywhere. The Seminoles will still run trick plays but not as much as the early days.

FSU did begin to slip when other universities started hiring away assistant coaches from Florida State. Chuck Amato, Mark Richt among other left the Seminole program to become head coaches.

The rise of the South as the main powerhouse region in football should last as long as the South continues to produce the best high school players. Miami and Alabama have proven that a return to dominance is just around the corner in the football rich South.



Bowden's coaching career might soon be over. Florida State has greatly benefited from his work at the school for the last 33 years. The program he has built changed the landscape of college football.

There were other factors than just the work of Bowden at Florida State. Still, you have to notice his effect on not just the Seminoles.

Bowden will hang up his whistle one day. Hopefully the rest of the college football world will know just how much he has done for the sport.


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