Early Tuesday morning in Afghanistan, I awoke to the news that Coach Bobby Bowden was announcing his retirement Tuesday on the East Coast. All too much in sports, both collegiate and professional, fans are of the “what have you done for me lately?” mindset.
While many fans will point to a 16-16 record since 2005, six straight losses to the University of Florida, and an overall decrease in the quality of play, coach Bowden should be remembered for what he brought to not just a football program, but the entire Florida State University.
I’d like to step out of the mindset of recent success and instead, look back and give thanks to a coaching legend and all he has done.
I want to thank Coach Bowden for raising the bar on NCAA football. He has amassed 33 straight winning seasons and 37 overall, tied for the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision. He took a struggling Florida State football team and made it the standard for a successful football program.
His 14 straight seasons of 10 or more wins (1987-2000), is a record that he holds alone. During that same period, Florida State finished in the top five of the polls each year, another unprecedented run. His 12-0 1999 National Championship squad was the first ever to go the entire season at No. 1.
Coach Bowden even raised the bar in the postseason, winning 11 straight bowl games from 1985-1996 and ensuring his team was bowl-eligible for 28 straight seasons, the nation’s longest streak.
I want to thank Coach Bowden for bringing FSU to the ACC. His guidance and approval of joining the ACC over the SEC, was instrumental for the entire athletics program and the university as a whole.
Back in 1990, being an independent was all the rage, but with many of the big independent programs like Penn State, Miami, and still-independent Notre Dame taking the lucrative offers of conference play, FSU decided to join the fray.
Both the SEC, a football-rich conference and the ACC made plays, FSU, with Coach Bowden involved in the process, ultimately decided on the ACC. With conference expansion, the big piece of the early 1990s, FSU’s allegiance to the ACC has helped them gain fame as well as the entire conference.
Since joining the ACC in 1991, FSU football has won 12 conference championships, including a record nine in a row (1992-2000). Beyond that, FSU football helped bring a sense of focus and relevance to a conference known primarily for basketball. If it wasn’t for FSU, the ACC likely would not have brought in Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College.
Florida State, especially with its early success, forced their opponents to step up their football programs allowing for strong parity in the conference over the past few years. FSU’s success in the ACC is not just held to football though.
The rest of the sports moved over from the Metro Conference (the Metro Conference did not have a football league) and all found continued success thanks to greater exposure and a higher quality of opponent.
All told, FSU athletics have won 41 ACC Championships and five national championships in 12 different sports.
I want to thank Coach Bowden for what he brought to FSU. As a alumnus, I grew up following FSU football and from there, developed a love for the school that was one of only two schools I applied for during high school. His contributions as a coach helped Florida State grow into one of the top universities not just in Florida, but in the United States.
It’s little surprise, that athletics brings in the big dollars and FSU football is the biggest contributor in that.
At the same time, I want to thank Coach Bowden for never leaving Florida State. All too often, coaches leave at the chance for bigger and better. Even when his favorite team growing up, Alabama called, coach never wavered in his support and loyalty to the Seminoles, a trait that many coaches forget today. He instead focused on raising young boys into men and won an amazing 388 games doing so.
As I close an article I never wanted to write, I’m sorry Coach Bowden leaves under these trying times for the Florida State program. However, I choose not to look at what was done lately, but the body of work that has allowed the Florida State football team to have such high expectations year after year.
Thank you Coach Bowden. I hope you enjoy sitting back in your chair, enjoying some lemonade, and remembering the days of FSU lore.