Bobby Bowden: A Fond Farewell To Florida State's Best Cheerleader

Larry SnarkvilleAnalyst IDecember 23, 2009

UNDATED: Head Coach Bobby Bowden of the Florida State Seminoles looks on during a NCAA Football Game. Bobby Bowden was a head coach for FSU from 1976 - 2009. (Photo by: Bill Frakes/Getty Images)
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In an auditorium on the Florida State University campus in 1981, I sat with other high school seniors and listened to the Seminoles' head football coach, Bobby Bowden talk about striving for success.

At the time, I was undecided as to where to go to college.

My dad wanted me to go to the University of Florida, but I liked the FSU campus.

"If you can get into Florida, you should go there," he told me. "It's a better school."

I'd gotten accepted to both and ended up a Gator, but I could have just as easily been a Seminole;had I listened to Coach Bowden.

And all these years later, I don't regret my decision. Even after subsequently transferring and graduating from Rutgers, I'd already left part of my heart in Gainesville.

But you know what?

Another part of it was left in that Tallahassee auditorium, too.

After reading an article about Coach Bowden on , I was reminded of my experience and thought about how he had come to end his tenure as head football coach at Florida State.

And I wondered how he had transformed that program and perhaps more importantly, that whole university.

Then I thought about another long-time coaching icon: Joe Paterno, the head football coach at Penn State.

Like the circumstances that would eventually end up running Coach Bowden off the sidelines in Tallahassee, those in charge at State College tried a similar tactic with Paterno a few years back.

At the time, I thought that a coach like Paterno should decide when to retire; that it was his call.

I thought so because I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, i.e., I trusted his instincts. Born out of years of commitment to his school, he would do what was in its best interests,so I thought.

I know that in this day and age of false idols (like now is any different than any other time) I was treading on a slippery surface,but I was willing to do so anyway.

I thought that same line of thinking should apply to Bowden, too.

Now the cynics might think that as a Gator fan, my reasons for supporting Bowden at FSU had more to do with Florida's recent domination of the Seminoles than any subconscious affections I might have for the Seminole coach,but it wasn't.

Because I can also remember walking through a Publix grocery store in Jacksonville Beach, FL, in what was either 1979 or 1980, and hearing the FSU/Nebraska broadcast.

I remembering saying to myself, "I can't believe this store is actually broadcasting a college football game on it's sound system," and then "FSU is going to beat Nebraska Lincoln! are you kidding me!"

Back in those days, Bowden would take the Seminoles anywhere to play anyone and the Cornhuskers were no different.

That game announced Bobby Bowden to college football, the Florida State football program to the country, and cemented in my mind the lessons he'd reinforce to me in that Tallahassee auditorium just a few months later.

He deserved better.