Bobby Bowden, one of college football’s most successful coaches, has passed away at age 91.
He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Samford from 1954-1955, then became the head coach at South Georgia State College from 1956-1958. He then returned to Samford as the head coach from 1959-1962. From 1963 to 1965 he was a wide receivers coach at Florida State University. From 1966 to 1969, he was the offensive coordinator at West Virginia University, then from 1970-1975 he was the coach at that school.
In 1976, he returned to Florida State, this time becoming the head coach. He would turn Florida State into a national powerhouse with over 300 victories.
From 1976 to 1991, Florida State was an Independent, and the Seminoles were in bowl games for all but three seasons during that period, including appearances in the Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl, Gator Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Cotton Bowl.
Beginning with the 1992 season, Florida State was a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Bowden would take the Seminoles to a bowl game every year through the 2009 season. In addition, the Seminoles were conference champions twelve times, won the national championship twice, and produced two Heisman Trophy winners.
It was during Bowden’s tenure that Florida State’s rivalry with inner-state rival the University of Miami intensified. Miami would defeat Florida State in two-thirds of their meetings during Bowden’s tenure, including the infamous Wide Right meetings in 1991, 1992, 2000, and the Orange Bowl on January 1, 2004, as well as a Wide Left meeting in 2002 (in which these losses involved Florida State’s kicker missing game-winning field goals).
Florida State’s rivalry with the University of Florida would also intensify, especially when Steve Spurrier coached the Gators from 1990 to 2001. The Seminoles won eight of those games against the Gators during that period, which consisted of several notable games, including the “Choke at Doak” in 1994 (a tie ball-game in which the Seminoles rallied from a 31-3 deficit), “the Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter” (a Sugar Bowl rematch during the 1994 season), No. 1 versus No. 2 (a battle of undefeated teams during the 1996 season), and a rematch in the Sugar Bowl on January 2, 1997 for the National Championship.
Bobby Bowden’s sons were also college football coaches: Jeff, whose coaching career including being an assistant coach at Florida State; Tommy, whose tenure as the head coach at Tulane included an undefeated season in 1998 before he took the head coaching job at Clemson; and Terry, whose career included being the head coach at Auburn from 1993-1998, which in turn included an undefeated season in 1993 (despite the Tigers being on probation).
Thus, Bobby Bowden was a legend in the college football world.