Dadgumit: Did Bowden Era Have to End Like This?

Justice HillCorrespondent IDecember 1, 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

I needed a full day to sift through the mixed feelings I had about what happened Monday to Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. In my lifetime, few coaches have been as tied to a football program as Bowden had been to Florida State.

Say Florida State, and the person whose face stood as a symbol of that great institution was his. For Bowden, a man with 388 wins on his coaching resume, was to Florida State what Joe Paterno is to Penn State, to what Bear Bryant was to Alabama and to what Woody Hayes was to Ohio State.

And as an OSU alum, I understood well what a man like Bowden meant. I also knew that his 34-year marriage wasn't intended to last forever -- a point JoePa might want to keep fresh in his mind. For living legends do have a shelf-life, and it's a lot shorter than they might like.

Still, it's never easy for a legend to bid adieu. I remembered how hard it was from my undergraduate years at Ohio State, because I mourned its decision to fire Hayes.
In hindsight, its decision was the right one.
But men like Hayes and Bowden -- and, yes, Paterno -- deserve more than a parting gift and a brick building on campus with their name on it. What made Hayes and Bowden so special was what became their undoing: a stubborn refusal to change or to quit.
They'd rather jump into a tar pit naked before stepping down, and in Bowden's coach, FSU officials realized as much.
To their credit, they did give Bowden a choice. Yet was it more a Hobson's choice than anything else: quit or they'd fire him.