Today, Florida State says farewell to a living legend.
There will never be another Bobby Bowden, nor will college football ever witness another coaching tenure as long or as successful as his.
At Florida State, Bowden built a national powerhouse from scratch. His values not only shaped his football program and the many young men he mentored, but also the university that grew around his personality and his success.
Beyond football, Bobby Bowden has always been a class act and a role model.
There are no mysteries when it comes to Bowden—the definition of “down to earth.” He is a man of faith whose lighthearted, Southern charm can make anyone feel comfortable.
He’s a fighter who sees the best in every situation, and whose success has made him a college football icon—though you wouldn’t know it by looking at him.
In a perfect world, Bobby Bowden would coach forever.
Unfortunately, the real world is far from perfect.
In the real world, football is a business, and the Seminoles are on the verge of going bankrupt.
It’s not that the Florida State faithful are not thankful for everything Bowden has accomplished; they just don’t want their debts of gratitude to keep the Seminoles from investing in the program’s future.
As Florida State struggled through the six-loss seasons and the humiliating defeats at the hands of the team’s biggest rivals, Bowden’s goal, as he said it, was always to get back to the way things were.
But it can’t be done. Bowden may be a saint in Tallahassee—with a statue and a stained glass mural to prove it—but not even Bowden can turn back the hands of time. Not even Bowden can keep college football from evolving beyond his years.
The fact of the matter is Florida State needs to get to where college football is going, not to where it has already been.
In 2007, Florida State’s offense received a modern makeover with the addition of Jimbo Fisher—an offensive coordinator hand-picked by Bowden to retool a once dominant offense and, eventually, to take over as head coach.
But this season, with the offense finally starting to show signs of life under the leadership of junior quarterback Christian Ponder, it was FSU’s defense that uncharacteristically deteriorated.
With the retirement of Mickey Andrews, Bowden’s right-hand man and longtime defensive coordinator, Florida State will undergo yet another dose of reconstructive surgery—this time on defense—this offseason.
With so many developing changes on the horizon for Florida State, it’s only fitting that the Seminoles finally embrace the new era waiting in the wings with head-coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher.
Sure, Bowden could stick it out for another year, but why? What does Bowden have to prove? That he can still coach?
Being the competitor that he is, I know it pains Bowden to see Florida State struggle, and I know he would keep coming back year after year if he could in his determination to right the ship in Tallahassee. But I hope Bowden realizes his work is done at Florida State.
His legacy is cemented in place. The values and traditions he has passed on to Florida State will guide his program for generations to come—even in his absence—and there’s nothing Bowden could have done for better or for worse next season to change that significantly.
Sadly, for Florida State, Bowden’s retirement is exactly what FSU needed. The sooner Bowden stepped down, the sooner Fisher could begin to provide Florida State with a new and more ambitious vision for the future—a vision that extends well beyond a one-year renewable contract.
Though it’s disappointing that Bowden did not get the opportunity to leave on his own terms, I think—despite his more recent statements—this is the exit Bowden always talked about.
Bowden said he didn’t want to be the boxer who fought one year too long. He said wanted to leave his successor with a promising team, and he said he would leave when it was the right move for the program.
Well, that day has come. Sure, no one thought it would end like this, but that’s reality. We don’t get to pick and choose how our lives unfold.
I think for Bobby Bowden it took one more loss to Urban Meyer and the Gators to face that reality. After six consecutive losses to the team’s archrival, including three consecutive dominant performances by the Gators, Bowden realized he could still coach, but not at a high enough level to compete with Meyer and the other elite coaches whose programs have surpassed his own.
Today is a sad day for Florida State, but it is also a day in which Tallahassee will embrace a fresh start and an exciting new era.
Today is a day to celebrate and be thankful for everything Bowden has accomplished—achievements so glorified they do not need repeating.
Bobby Bowden is an icon for all the right reasons. He is one of a kind, a great man and an incredible coach, and he has left his mark on the world as we know it.
So thanks, Bobby. Thanks for being a person first and a football coach second. Thanks for making college football fun, and thanks for all the memories.
You will be missed, but never forgotten, and Florida State will live on.
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