Bobby Bowden: End of an Era

Brian DaleContributor IDecember 3, 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

All great things must come to an end. For some it might be only their fifteen seconds of fame, while for others it will last for decades. When it comes to the coaching career of Bobby Bowden, it appears that after fifty-five years of coaching (fifty of which as a Head Coach) the end of the road has finally arrived for the 2006 College Football Hall of Fame Inductee. Unfortunately though, the ending of this story does not appear to be a happy one.

With Bowden essentially forced out by Florida State, the university he practically made a national name for, a new chapter will begin in Tallahassee. This is truly a sad day for sports, as one of the biggest figures in college football history will no longer be roaming the sidelines.

He is one of the last coaches to stay with one school for twenty-plus years, and once Joe Paterno calls it quits in the next few years, we will likely never see anything like that again.

Too many times throughout the history of sports we have seen athletes stay in the arena for far too long. From Willie Mays, to Muhammad Ali, the list goes on and on. It appears that for Bobby Bowden, in hindsight he should have retired a few years ago to prevent the current scenario from coming to fruition. Bowden deserved a better end to his incredible coaching career.

It's truly amazing to look back at Bowden's career to see all that he has accomplished. His 388 career victories, which is second all-time to Penn State's Joe Paterno, came over fifty seasons of coaching at three different institutions: Sanford (31-6 in four seasons at his Alma mater), West Virginia (42-26 over six seasons) and Florida State (315-97-4 over thirty-four seasons).

Bowden amassed 18 10-win seasons, including a stretch in which he had 14 consecutive 10-win years in a row. It was during this period (1987-2000) in which Florida State finished no lower than fifth in the country and won two National Titles (1993 and 1999), while playing in three others (1996, 1998 and 2000).

This stretch of success will likely never be matched again in college football. To put that run in perspective, up until this season's three-loss year for USC, the Trojans had been on a seven-year run (half the length of Florida State's) in which they have finished ranked fourth or higher in the polls.

The Trojans have won two national championships over this stretch (one split title in 2003 and an unanimous one in 2004), while playing in another national title game as well (2005). While USC boasted three Heisman winners (QB Carson Palmer 2002, QB Matt Leinart 2004 and RB Reggie Bush 2005) over Florida State's two (QB Charlie Ward, 1993 and QB Chris Weinke, 2000), overall the success the Seminoles had is unparalleled.

So, shortly after Bobby Bowden turned 80 years old in November, the Jimbo Fisher era has officially begun at Florida State. While I am sure he will have success at Florida State, he certainly has some big shoes to fill.