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Bobby Bowden

Title Head coach
Sport Football
Born November 8, 1929 (1929-11-08) (age 80)
Place of birth Birmingham, Alabama
Career highlights
Overall 377–129–4, 12 wins vacated
Bowls 21–10–1, 1 win vacated
Coaching stats
College Football DataWarehouse
2 National Championships (1993, 1999)
12 ACC Championships (1992–2000, 2002–2003, 2005)
Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award (1991)
Playing career
Alabama (freshman team)
Howard College
Position Quarterback (Alabama and Howard), running back (Howard)
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Howard College (OC)
South Georgia College
Howard College
Florida State (WR)
West Virginia (OC)
West Virginia
Florida State
College Football Hall of Fame, 2006 (Bio)

Robert Cleckler Bowden (born November 8, 1929 in Birmingham, Alabama) is a retired college football coach. He coached the Florida State Seminoles football team from the 1976 to 2009 seasons. During his time at Florida State, Bowden led FSU to an Associated Press and Coaches Poll National Title in 1993 and a BCS National Championship National Title in 1999, as well as twelve Atlantic Coast Conference championships since FSU joined the conference in 1991. After a difficult 2009 season and amid questioning fans, Bowden announced his retirement from FSU on December 1, just weeks after his 80th birthday. His final coaching appearance was the 2010 Gator Bowl game on January 1 with a 33-21 victory over his former program, West Virginia.

Bowden finished his career second in all-time wins by a Division I-FBS coach with 375 wins[1]. A March 6, 2009 NCAA ruling requiring Florida State to "vacate wins for any games in which an ineligible player participated," threatening to remove as many as 14 of Bowden's wins from the 2006 and 2007 seasons in relation to an academic scandal, Florida State appealed the ruling.[2][3][4]. This ruling was upheld on January 5, 2010 [5]. Upon final investigation by Florida State University it was determined that Bowden was to vacate 14 wins[6], bringing his final career record to 375-129-4. As of the 2009 season, Bowden was one of four active coaches inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as coaches (along with Chris Ault, Joe Paterno, and John Gagliardi).


Youth and family life

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Bowden spent a portion of his childhood in bed, sick. When he was 13 years old, Bowden was diagnosed with rheumatic fever. After a six month hospital stay, Bowden was confined to his bed at home for just over a year with nothing more than his imagination to pass the time. It was listening to World War II reports on the radio that began Bowden's interest in the war, an interest he still has to this day. It was also around this time that his love for football increased, as he would listen to University of Alabama football on Saturday mornings.

Bowden was an outstanding football player at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, and went on to the University of Alabama as a quarterback, fulfilling a lifelong dream to play for the Crimson Tide before returning to Birmingham and marrying his high school sweetheart Ann Estock on April 1, 1949 (today, the couple have six children and 21 grandchildren). Bobby transferred to Howard College (now Samford University), where he was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Bowden graduated from Howard in 1953.

Early coaching career

Bowden served as an assistant football coach and head track and field coach at Howard College (now known as Samford University, currently in the FCS football division) in Birmingham, Alabama from 1954–55. He left his alma mater to become Athletic Director as well as head football, baseball, and basketball coach at South Georgia College from 1956 to 1958. Bowden then returned to Howard as head coach, where he compiled a 31–6 record between 1959 and 1962. In 1962, Bowden went to Florida State University as an assistant coach under Head Coach Bill Peterson. Two other coaching legends who worked under Coach Peterson during this time were Bill Parcells and Joe Gibbs. Bowden left Florida State in 1965 to go to West Virginia University as an assistant under Jim Carlen. When Carlen left following the 1969 season to become head coach at Texas Tech, Bowden replaced him. Bowden then compiled a 42–26 record at WVU before returning to FSU as head coach in 1976.

During Bowden's first year as head coach at WVU, the football team of the state's other top-division school, Marshall University, was wiped out in a tragic plane crash. Bowden asked NCAA permission to wear Marshall jerseys and play Marshall's final game of the 1970 season against Ohio, but was denied. In memory of the victims of the crash, Mountaineers players put green crosses and the initials "MU" on their helmets. Bowden allowed Marshall's new head coach Jack Lengyel and his assistants access to game film and playbooks to acquaint themselves with the veer offense, a variation of the option offense which aids teams with weak offensive lines. Lengyel credits Bowden with helping the Young Thundering Herd recover. Bowden reportedly became emotional while viewing the movie We Are Marshall, and has said that he was the original candidate for the Marshall head coaching job ultimately filled by crash victim Rick Tolley.[7]

Florida State

Bobby Bowden on the sidelines of the November 4, 2006 game

At Florida State, Bowden inherited a team that had won just four games over the previous three seasons. In his 34 years as the head coach at Florida State, he had only one losing season, his first in 1976. He is the only coach in Division I-A football history to have enjoyed 14 straight seasons of 10 or more wins. His Florida State Seminoles finished an unprecedented 14 straight seasons in the top 5 of the Associated Press College Football Poll, and won the College Football National Championship in 1993 and 1999.

The Bobby Bowden National Collegiate Coach of the Year Award

March 21, 2010,The Over the Mountain Touchdown Club of Birmingham Alabama presented the first annual award named in honor of Coach Bowden and the contributions that he made during his great career. The award emcompasses a coach each year with unmatched success on and off of the field through the same attributes that Coach Bowden showed throughout his career: Preserverance, Attitude, Integrity, and Determination. University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban was the first recipient of the award that was presented by Bobby Bowden himself. The award is presented each year after national signing day and before the commencement of Spring practice.

In 2004, The Fellowship of Christian Athletes presented the first of what is now a yearly award in Bowden's name, The National Bobby Bowden Award, honoring one college football player for his achievements on the field, in the classroom and in the community. The award is presented each year prior to the Bowl Championship Series' national title.

Family of coaches

Bobby is not the only member of his family to have coached Division I-A football. His son Tommy Bowden was the head coach at Clemson University. Tommy was fired in 2008. Another son, Terry Bowden, was the head coach at Auburn University, where he was the 1993 Coach of the Year. A third son, Jeff Bowden, was the offensive coordinator at Florida State. All three Bowden men who were head coaches have achieved an undefeated season: Terry in 1993 at Auburn; Tommy in 1998 at Tulane; and Bobby in 1999 at Florida State. Bobby's 1993 and 1999 Florida State teams were the only ones to win a National Championship, however.

The Bowden Bowl

As both Florida State and Clemson are in the same division of the Atlantic Coast Conference for football, the two teams played each other every year from 1999 through 2007 in a game that became known as "The Bowden Bowl". Their 1999 meeting was the first time in Division I-A history that a father and a son met as opposing head coaches in a football game. Bobby held the edge in the series 5–4, with all four losses within the last five games. Tommy Bowden's four wins in the series remain the only times a son has ever beaten his father when facing off as head coach in any of America's four major sports.[citation needed]

One Bowden Bowl was scheduled between Auburn and Florida State for 1999 when Terry Bowden was the coach at Auburn. However, Terry's midseason resignation in 1998 ended the possibility of a Bowden Bowl. Another Bowden Bowl was scheduled between Clemson and Florida State in 2008, but Tommy Bowden's resignation halfway through the year ended the Bowden Bowls. Florida State beat Clemson in what would have been the 2008 Bowden Bowl on Bobby Bowden's 79th birthday, earning him his 380th career win.

Head coaching record

In his 44 seasons as a head coach, Bowden has had 40 winning seasons, and 36 Division 1-A winning seasons. During the period 1987–2000, Bowden coached Florida State to 14 straight seasons with 10 or more victories, and his team had a final ranking of fifth or higher in both of the major polls.

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl Coaches# AP°
Howard Bulldogs (Independent) (1959–1962)
1959 Howard 9–1
1960 Howard 8–1
1961 Howard 7–2
1962 Howard 7–2
Howard: 31–6
West Virginia Mountaineers (Independent) (1970–1975)
1970 West Virginia 8–3
1971 West Virginia 7–4
1972 West Virginia 8–4 L Peach
1973 West Virginia 6–5
1974 West Virginia 4–7
1975 West Virginia 9–3 W Peach 17 20
West Virginia: 42–26
Florida State Seminoles (Independent) (1976–1991)
1976 Florida State 5–6
1977 Florida State 10–2 W Tangerine 11 14
1978 Florida State 8–3
1979 Florida State 11–1 L Orange 8 6
1980 Florida State 10–2 L Orange 5 5
1981 Florida State 6–5
1982 Florida State 9–3 W Gator 10 13
1983 Florida State 8–4 W Peach
1984 Florida State 7–3–2 Tie Citrus 19 17
1985 Florida State 9–3 W Gator 13 15
1986 Florida State 7–4–1 W All-American 20
1987 Florida State 11–1 W Fiesta 2 2
1988 Florida State 11–1 W Sugar 3 3
1989 Florida State 10–2 W Fiesta 2 3
1990 Florida State 10–2 W Blockbuster 4 4
1991 Florida State 11–2 W Cotton 4 4
Florida State Seminoles (ACC) (1992–2009)
1992 Florida State 11–1 8–0 1st W Orange 2 2
1993 Florida State 12–1 8–0 1st W Orange 1 1
1994 Florida State 10–1–1 8–0 1st W Sugar 5 4
1995 Florida State 10–2 7–1 T-1st W Orange 5 4
1996 Florida State 11–1 8–0 1st L Sugar 3 3
1997 Florida State 11–1 8–0 1st W Sugar 3 3
1998 Florida State 11–2 7–1 T-1st L Fiesta 3 3
1999 Florida State 12–0 8–0 1st W Sugar 1 1
2000 Florida State 11–2 8–0 1st L Orange 4 5
2001 Florida State 8–4 6–2 2nd W Gator 15 15
2002 Florida State 9–5 7–1 1st L Sugar 23 21
2003 Florida State 10–3 7–1 1st L Orange 10 11
2004 Florida State 9–3 6–2 2nd W Gator 14 15
2005 Florida State 8–5 5–3 1st (Atlantic) L Orange 23 22
2006 Florida State (7)2-6‡ (3)1-5‡ 5th (Atlantic) Vacated Emerald
2007 Florida State (7)0-6‡ (4)0-4‡ 3rd (Atlantic) L Music City
2008 Florida State 9–4 5–3 T-1st (Atlantic) W Champs Sports 23 21
2009 Florida State 7–6 4–4 3rd (Atlantic) W Gator
Florida State: 304–97–4 111–27
Total: 377–129–4
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title
Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.

‡ Twelve results, including six conference results, were vacated for use of ineligible players in 2006-07. While FSU must certify what contests ineligible players competed in, the wins from 2006-07 have all been implicated according to news sources.[8]


Bobby Bowden has co-authored several books, including:

  • Winning's Only Part of the Game : Lessons of Life and Football (1996) (ISBN 0-446-52050-0)
  • The Bowden Way : 50 Years of Leadership Wisdom (2001) (ISBN 1-56352-684-0)
  • Bobby Bowden's Tales from the Seminole Sideline (2004) (ISBN 1-58261-406-7)

Books about Bobby Bowden's early coaching years:

  • Bobby Bowden: Memories of A Legend and his Boys from South Georgia College (2008) (ISBN 978-1-58385-282-8)

Books about Bobby Bowden's entire career:

  • Bobby Bowden: Win by Win (2003) (ISBN 0-7385-1544-2)
  • Bowden: How Bobby Bowden Forged a Football Dynasty (2003) (ISBN 0-0614-7419-3)
  • Pure Gold: Bobby Bowden An Inside Look (2004) (ISBN 1-5967-0120-X)

See also



External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Virgil C. Ledbetter
Howard College Head Football Coach
Succeeded by
Herman L. Scott
Preceded by
Jim Carlen
West Virginia Head Football Coach
Succeeded by
Frank Cignetti
Preceded by
Darrell Mudra
Florida State University Head Football Coach
Succeeded by
Jimbo Fisher
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Bobby Ross
Walter Camp Coach of the Year
Succeeded by
Gene Stallings


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