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Living Legend: Bobby Bowden's Departure Leaves Huge Shoes to Fill in Tallahassee

Tim Bielik@bielik_timSenior Analyst 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

According to ESPN, Florida State Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden, one of the all-time legends of the game, is expected to retire after 33 years of coaching in Tallahassee.

With the recent struggles of the Seminoles and the inability to sustain success in recent years, it seems the game had passed Bowden by. But if indeed he does decide to step down, he is doing so maybe a little too late.

The legend is second in the FBS in wins at 388, just behind Penn State legend Joe Paterno.

But even though Bowden has had issues with lack of success, one thing he deserves more credit for than anything else is putting the Florida State football program on the map.

Since he arrived at Tallahassee in 1976, Bowden and the Seminoles have missed the postseason only three times, including a 26-year stretch of consecutive bowls with hopefully a 27th straight appearance on the way this season.

But more than anything else, Bowden will be remembered for how he and the Seminoles ruled the college football world for most of the 1990s.

When FSU joined the ACC in 1992, the 'Noles went through an eight-year stretch where they won the ACC title and never finished with more than two losses.

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In that decade, Florida State won two national championships, and had two Heisman Trophy winners in Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke.

Also, not too many coaches have put out the caliber of star NFL prospects than Bowden and the 'Noles. Among those who hailed from Tallahassee were Derrick Brooks, Deion Sanders, Corey Simon, Warrick Dunn, and Sebastian Janikowski.

But lately, Bowden's legacy has been tarnished with mediocrity and an inability to adjust to the current game, something fellow legend Joe Paterno has been able to do in Happy Valley.

Since 2000, Florida State has mustered only one 10-win season and has not won a BCS bowl game in that stretch.

Florida State just hasn't been able to get the type of players they used to have in the 1990s, mostly because of Florida and Miami becoming powerhouses in different parts of the last decade and leaving the 'Noles in the dust.

And Bowden's schematics seem outdated as he no longer has the speed advantages in the older days, which made his man-to-man schemes so effective.

Ultimately, the difficulties in keeping up with their in-state rivals and adjusting to the game caught up with Bowden.

It's a shame, because Bobby Bowden is Florida State football and literally gave them legitimacy the same way Pete Carroll has done in USC this decade.

But he is still one of the greatest coaches of the modern era of college football, and possibly of all time.

As Jimbo Fisher now steps in, he has as big a set of shoes as any man in recent memory to fill in the coaching ranks.

It's tough to tell if the Seminoles can return to past glory and launch another dynasty.

But with a legend stepping aside after 33 years, 12 conference titles and two national championships is quite a stat line for the Hall of Fame coach.

With those 33 years, Bobby Bowden has been one of those coaches such as Woody Hayes and Darrell Royal, who single-handedly put their programs on the map.

The difference is how far Bowden carried the Seminoles, from four wins in the three years before he took the helm, to one of the most dominant decades in the history of college football.

Bobby Bowden may be done in Tallahassee, but his legacy, and the building of the Seminoles' football program, will live forever.

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