This past Sunday, the legendary Bobby Bowden, the College Football Hall of Fame coach of FSU and the second all-time winningest coach in Division I history, has passed away at the age of 91.
In a statement, Terry, Bobby’s son, put forth that his father passed away Sunday morning peacefully while being surrounded by his family in his home.
“My father passed away peacefully early this morning with all six of his children and my mother here by his side,” stated Terry in his release. “I couldn’t have asked for a better personal mentor than my father. He was a wonderful husband and father, who relied on his strong Christian faith to provide the foundation for his life. I also was fortunate to be raised by a football coach who had a reputation for coaching the right way his entire career. He was admired by everyone who played for him or coached against him.”
In a statement made to reporters, Terry said that his father, who had stated back in July that he was fighting an undisclosed medical condition, had in fact been in a fight with pancreatic cancer.
“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,” stated Bobby Bowden at the time. “My wife Ann and our family have been life’s greatest blessing. I am at peace.”
As is currently planned, a public viewing will happen this Friday at FSU’s Doak Campbell Stadium and the event will be followed directly by a public funeral service the following Saturday located on the school’s campus. An entirely separate public viewing is also slated to take place over at his alma mater, Samford University, currently slated to take place this Sunday.
In a report published this past Sunday by ESPN, Bowden’s life story was highlighted:
Robert Cleckler Bowden, better known as Bobby, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1929. He was a sickly child, diagnosed with rheumatic fever and spending a great deal of his youth in bed. It was then, listening to radio broadcasts, that Bowden developed a love of football. He listened to Alabama games on the radio — and while football didn’t cure Bowden, it certainly led to his life’s calling. With his health in check, Bowden played football at Woodlawn High School with dreams of going on to suit up for the Crimson Tide.
And that he did — at quarterback, no less — but love eventually took precedence. Alabama’s policy at the time was that freshmen couldn’t get married, but Bowden really wanted to marry his high school sweetheart, Ann Estock. So he did, and he walked away from his Tide career as a result. He went on to play quarterback for Howard College (now Samford University). He also played baseball and ran track.
After graduating, Bowden got his first coaching gig as an assistant at Howard. He parlayed that into another job, athletic director and head coach at two-year South Georgia College, which later led him back to Howard as head coach in 1959, where he’d coach until 1962.
His coaching prowess grew in that span, as did his wanderlust to coach larger schools. His University Division (now called Football Bowl Subdivision) start was actually with the Seminoles, as wide receivers coach, from 1963 to ’65. He then went to West Virginia to serve as offensive coordinator from 1966 to ’69. He was named head coach in 1970 and had a 42-26 record with the Mountaineers. … in 1976, Bowden went to Florida State, mostly because it was warmer in Tallahassee and closer to his mother. His first year as head coach of the Seminoles wasn’t his best — they went 5-6 — but it was his only losing record in his 34 seasons there. In 1977, the Seminoles got their first bowl invitation under Bowden, which would lead to 28 consecutive bowl appearances and national championships in 1993 and 1999. For 14 straight seasons, ending in 2000, the Seminoles won at least 10 games and finished ranked in the top five of the AP poll.
His status as a Florida State legend — and as a legend in college football as a whole — was established in that span. He and Penn State coach Joe Paterno were neck-and-neck at Nos. 1 and 2 on the winningest coaches list. In 2009, Bowden announced his retirement. The last years of his coaching career weren’t stellar.