A coaching legend but also a genuine man who made a friend for life with a simple, “Hey, buddy.” It was so simple but that smile and enthusiasm behind two words sparked a conversation and provided life-long memories to all.
Bobby Bowden died at 91 on Sunday at 5:08 a.m., a Florida State spokesperson announced. He was surrounded by his wife, Ann, and all six children.
“I’ve always tried to serve God’s purpose for my life, on and off the field, and I am prepared for what is to come,” Bowden said in a July statement. “My wife, Ann, and our family have been life’s greatest blessing. I am at peace.”
A service for Bowden will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Center. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m.
Bowden battled COVID in 2020 and had been in the hospital a few times this year. In the last few months, a steady group of his players and assistant coaches made visits to the family’s Killearn home to spend time with him. Many others called and talked with coach, Ann or his longtime administrative assistant, Sue Hall.
Bowden put Florida State on the college football map, arriving in 1976 and going 5-6. It was the first and only losing record he would have before retiring following the 2009 season. He is known for winning two national titles in 1993 and ’99 as well as a 14-year run of top-4 finishes from 1987-2001. But he is also viewed as a father figure, and later grandfather figure, to thousands of his players. He was also a mentor to many coaches from his sons to head coaches like Mark Richt, Chuck Amato and Rick Stockstill as well as countless players who went on to become high school coaches.
In 2006, Bowden was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
January 1976 – Bowden is hired as head coach. “We have found just the right person we are looking for in Coach Bowden,” FSU president Stanley Marshall told the Tallahassee Democrat at the time. “He has all the credentials to lead Florida State to a level of achievement in football that all of us anticipate.” It was a four-year deal for $37,500 annually.
Fall 1976 – Bowden goes with a youth movement after Miami’s 47-0 victory in week 2. FSU holds its own at No. 4 Oklahoma before falling 24-9 in week 3 and there are growing pains throughout the season before the Seminoles finish with consecutive wins over Southern Miss, North Texas State and Virginia Tech to finish 5-6. This would be FSU’s last losing season of the Bowden Era.
1977 – FSU lands its first big signee when defensive lineman Ron Simmons picks the Seminoles.
1977 – The Seminoles double their win total from 1976, jumping back into the AP rankings as wins pile up before a 37-9 rout at Florida on Dec. 3. FSU defeats Texas Tech in the Tangerine Bowl. It’s FSU’s first 10-win season in program history and first bowl game since 1971.
1978 – FSU defeated Miami and Florida in the same season. While the Seminoles went 8-3, it’s notable that they knocked off both in-state rivals for the first time since 1963.
1979 – Bowden made a big decision going into the Oct. 27 game at Baton Rouge – if the Seminoles won, he would stay at FSU, but if LSU picked up the victory, he would pursue the Tigers’ opening beginning in the 1980 season. “That was the weekend, the game, where I really made the decision to stay at Florida State,” Bowden told reporters years later. FSU, of course, won 24-19. Bowden decided to stay. That season, he helped guide FSU to a perfect 11-0 season, with the Seminoles jumping into the top 10 of the AP poll as they defeat rivals like Florida and Miami by double digits. FSU knocked off two other ranked opponents, Mississippi State and South Carolina, by double figures, too. FSU fell to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, but it becomes clear as the decade closes that Bowden is putting FSU on the college football map.
1980 – A senior-led victory at No. 4 Nebraska, 18-12, was followed by a home victory over No. 4 Pittsburgh, and Dan Marino, 36-22. The Seminoles’ only losses in a 10-2 season come to Miami in a top-20 matchup, 10-9 and an Orange Bowl rematch vs. Oklahoma.
1981 – Octoberfest. Bowden joked years earlier that he had to leave FSU before this brutal schedule of consecutive road games: Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and LSU. FSU pulls off road wins over Ohio State, Notre Dame and LSU but the wear and tear of the season result in late-season losses to Miami and Florida and the Seminoles finish 6-5. Regardless, FSU and Bowden’s earn a reputation of playing anyone, anywhere. These high-profile games continue to put the Seminoles on the map nationally.
1982 – FSU goes 9-3 with a win over Miami and a narrow loss to Florida. But the season ends in the Gator Bowl, where Bowden and the Seminoles defeat West Virginia 31-12 — beginning a bowl streak that would extend throughout the remainder of Bowden’s career and last until 2018.
1984 – On Feb. 10, Bowden made perhaps his most significant hire: Mickey Andrews. At the time, Bowden says, “I was looking for the absolute best defensive secondary coach in the country. I firmly belief that I’ve found him.” The interview took place at a McDonald’s on the edge of FSU’s campus. Andrews brought speed and a tenacious mindset to the defense. He also brought stability, staying at FSU through Bowden’s last season in 2009.
1985 – Arguably one of the best signing classes, if not the best, in FSU history. FSU signed DB Deion Sanders, QB Chip Ferguson, QB Peter Tom Willis, RB Sammie Smith, DB Dedrick Dodge, LB Odell Haggins and DL Eric Hayes. The group helped set the table for what was to come in the following years.
1986 – Florida State’s up-and-down season ends with an All-American Bowl victory over Indiana in Birmingham, Ala. But the real action was taking place on the Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa as school officials had talked with Bowden about taking over as head coach and replacing Ray Perkins. Bowden thought he had been offered the job but when the President insisted he interview, Bowden declined to do so. Bowden famously said he never interviewed for a job. Bowden stayed at FSU and Alabama instead hired Bill Curry.
1987 – FSU goes 10-1 in the regular season, with the only blemish a narrow loss in the final minutes at home to Miami. After a late touchdown, Bowden elects to go for the extra-point attempt. But players on the sideline convince him to go for two and he calls a timeout. A two-point pass is incomplete. But FSU runs the table, knocking off Nebraska in a matchup of top-10 teams in the Fiesta Bowl. The dynasty begins as FSU will finish in the top 4 of the AP poll in each season through 2000.
1988 – FSU opens as preseason No. 1 in the AP poll. The Seminole Rap is recorded and it is not a No. 1 hit with Bowden. Miami doesn’t think very highly of it either, and the Hurricanes put together a season-opening 31-0 win. As it turned out, FSU was dominant the rest of the way before finishing off Auburn 13-7 in the Sugar Bowl in a top-10 matchup.
1989 – FSU fell flat to Southern Miss (and quarterback Brett Favre) as well as Clemson. But the 0-2 start didn’t diminish a list of wins that year over Miami, Florida, LSU, Syracuse, Auburn and Nebraska again in the Fiesta Bowl.
1990 – FSU finishes off a 10-2 season as Bowden and Joe Paterno square off at the Blockbuster Bowl in Miami. The Seminoles win the top-15 matchup, 24-17.
1991 – FSU opens as the preseason No. 1 team in the AP poll and wins a high-scoring contest with BYU and Heisman Trophy-winning QB Ty Detmer 44-28 in Anaheim, Calif., to open the season. FSU goes up to Michigan and takes a shootout against the No. 3 Wolverines (51-31), then routs No. 11 Syracuse, and wins a muddy battle in Baton Rouge in which the Seminoles sustained injuries to their starting center and left tackle and Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback Casey Weldon. An injury-plagued No. 1 ranked Seminole team lost 17-16 on Wide Right I against No. 2 Miami. The No. 5 Seminoles limped into No. 3 Florida where they lost 14-9 to end national title aspirations, although there are plenty of positives in an 11-2 season.
1992 – FSU joins the ACC and it is relatively smooth sailing through four games. But the non-conference matchup with Miami is again a problem: Wide Right II. The Seminoles are able to handle the rest of the schedule with relative ease, though in an 11-1 season. FSU wins its first ACC title.
1993 – FSU opens the season No. 1 in the AP poll. Another kickoff classic with a memorable 42-0 victory over Kansas, including the famous 11-play, goal-line stand. The Seminoles stack wins, putting away Miami without the need for a late kick. The Noles fall in the final moments in a Game of the Century, as No. 2 Notre Dame defeats No. 1 FSU 31-24 in South Bend, Ind. FSU puts away Florida, with a little help from a Ward-to-Dunn play, and the Seminoles hold off Nebraska 18-16 in the Orange Bowl for the program’s first national title.
1994 – FSU runs into a good Florida team and falls behind 31-3 going into the fourth quarter at home against Florida. The Seminoles put together some of the best 15 minutes of football in program history, although it’s arguable that many fans left the stadium or turned off the TV that day. Even though the “Choke at Doak” isn’t a win, it’s remembered fondly by the Seminoles and most of their fans.
1995 – FSU’s undefeated run through the ACC came to a halt on a Thursday night at Virginia. But the Seminoles still have a 10-2 season that includes wins over Miami and Notre Dame.
1996 – No. 2 FSU defeats No. 1 Florida in Doak to complete a perfect regular season. But an unlikely Sugar Bowl rematch is lopsided as the No. 3 Gators take a 52-20 win. This is the 10th straight season of top-4 finishes for FSU.
1997 – FSU runs the table yet again until a top-10 matchup in the Swamp, No. 2 FSU vs. No. 10 Florida. The Gators pull out all the stops, alternate two quarterbacks and sneak out a 32-29 win.
1998 – FSU rebounds from an early loss at NC State in week 2. Starting quarterback Chris Weinke sustained a neck injury against Wake Forest that would sideline him for the season. Back-up quarterback Marcus Outzen stepped in to lead FSU to a 11-1 regular season including a thrilling victory over the No. 4 Gators 23-12 to earn a berth in the National Championship game against Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl, where the Noles came up just short 23-16.
1999 – Wire-to-wire National Champs against a schedule that included the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 10 team in the nation. There were some nervous moments, especially when trying to slow down No. 2 Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick, but the Seminoles take a 46-29 win. Bowden has his perfect season.
2000 – No. 1 FSU loses a heartbreaker to No. 7 Miami (it ain’t right) but is otherwise unblemished through the regular season, knocking off No. 4 Florida 30-7 to earn an Orange Bowl matchup against Oklahoma, falling 13-2. FSU plays with Mark Richt calling plays and organizing his staff at Georgia, while Chuck Amato is preparing to go to NC State.
2004 – The Bobby Bowden statue is dedicated before the Sept. 25 game and the No. 8 Seminoles defeat Clemson, coached by Bobby’s son Tommy. The field at Doak Campbell Stadium is renamed Bobby Bowden Field on Nov. 20 before the game against Florida.
2005 – FSU captures its final ACC title under Bowden, despite a 6-3 record. The Seminoles capture the first ACC championship game against Virginia Tech in Jacksonville on Dec. 3, the 12th of Bowden’s ACC titles. A month later, Bowden and Paterno stay up late for a three-overtime nail-biter before Penn State takes a 26-23 win.
2008 – FSU announces Jimbo Fisher, who arrived as offensive coordinator in 2007, will be named the head coach in waiting and that he will take over for Bowden within three years.
2009 – Fan frustration builds as the Seminoles lose to South Florida, Boston College and Georgia Tech on three straight weeks. The Seminoles struggle to become bowl-eligible before pulling out a 29-26 win over Maryland in the final home game for Bowden on Nov. 21. Two days after FSU’s regular season ends with a 37-10 loss at Florida, and just weeks after Bowden’s 80th birthday, FSU President T.K. Wetherell announces Bowden will not return for the 2010 season. The Gator Bowl extends an offer to FSU and arranges a matchup with West Virginia. FSU takes a 33-21 victory in Bowden’s final game, which was his 377th career win.