Bobby Bowden: An Icon's Farewell

Eric FisherCorrespondent INovember 30, 2009

1 Jan 1996:  Head coach Bobby Bowden of the Florida State Seminoles is carried triumphantly off the field by nose guard Andre Wadsworth #8 and tackle Orpheus Roy after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida 31-26.  Ma
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

People make a lot of coaches, with terms like "legend" and "icon" being tossed out a bit loosely at times, but to see a man like Bobby Bowden step down reminds us of what these kinds of words mean. Bobby Bowden was a true legend in coaching, a real icon of college sports. It's incredibly sad to see a career like his end on such a sour note. Bobby Bowden is one of the last few of a dying breed, a coach who was truly larger than life, and even in the pressure cooker atmosphere of modern college football, a coach who was still bigger than his program. Until now.

Bobby Bowden is the unfortunate victim of the beast he created, swallowed up by the expectations he built up over his 34 seasons at Florida State. The heart breaking thing about this end is that Bowden has become what he never wanted to, the boxer who fights one too many years, the stubborn old man who refused to believe he had slipped.
As a Florida State fan, it wasn't easy to hear him doubt himself after Saturday's game against Florida, his team's sixth loss in a row to it's arch-rival. But we've seen these signs for a few seasons, as Bowden seemed more and more bewildered as difficult to explain losses piled up and the glory days of FSU's run seemed further and further in the past each season.
But I can only hope that people don't remember Bowden for these struggles, or the way his career ended. Florida State fans should remember the man that led their team to 14 straight Top Five finishes, a feat still nowhere near matched in College Football.
They should remember the National Titles, and the Heisman Winners who led those teams.
They should remember the iconic players who suited up for Bowden; Chris Weinke, Charlie Ward, Deion Sanders, Derrick Brooks, and Warrick Dunn among so many others. FSU fans also should remember that it is only because of Bowden that they have these expectations.
Without him, who knows where the program would be. He took a program that was nothing nationally and turned it into one of College Football's great dynasties.
But the truth is, Bowden is one of the last of a dying breed for a reason. Today's college football landscape is hardly recognizable compared to the one Bowden presided over in the late '80s and '90s. The pressure to win and win now is greater than ever, and being a legend and an icon don't make up for six win seasons when a fan base expects 10. So it is in this era of college sports that we bid a much-too unceremonious farewell to one of the all-time greats.
Bowden, for all his charm, down to earth wisdom, and character, never changed a bit, and as the game changed around him, this lack of adaption led to his downfall. So as we bid Bowden farewell, I only hope people everywhere, but especially at Florida State, remember that they owe everything to him, and that he was not only a great coach, but he was a good man too.
They don't make 'em like Bowden anymore, and that's the hardest part about watching him leave the throne he built in Tallahassee. Dad gum it, we'll all miss him.