Bobby Bowden To Retire: Remembering the Run
Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden
Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden
Posted Dec 1, 2009

Legendary head coach Bobby Bowden will retire, ending his tremendous 43-season career as one of the greatest head coaches of all time. While the last nine years might not have been impressive, as Pete Fiutak points out, they shouldn't overshadow the unprecedented 14-year span when FSU ruled the world.

Bobby Bowden To Retire

Remembering the special run

By Pete Fiutak

Bobby Bowden is expected to step down as the Florida State head coach, thus ending one of the greatest careers in the history of college football.

Joe Paterno should go down as the most revered and best all-around head coach in college football history. Bear Bryant might be the most respected and most iconic coach, Knute Rockne might be the most legendary, and Woody Hayes might known as the most demanding and intimidating. Bowden will be remembered as the most personable and most well-liked, all while making his program one of the most consistent high-level winners in college football history.

"The Run"
Florida State from 1987-2000

1987: 11-1, with the one loss coming to Miami 26-25 on a missed two point conversion attempt, when the extra points and the tie might have meant a national title.
Final Ranking: AP 2, Coaches 2

1988: 11-1, with the one loss coming in the season opener against Miami. Sugar Bowl win over Auburn.
Final Ranking: AP 3, Coaches 3

1989: 10-2, with a ten-game winning streak to rally back after losing the first two games to Southern Miss (led by Brett Favre) and Clemson. The Noles handed Miami, the eventual national champion, its only loss of the season. Fiesta Bowl win over Nebraska.
Final Ranking: AP 3, Coaches 2

1990: 10-2, with the losses to Miami and an Auburn team that finished 8-3-1. Blockbuster Bowl win over Penn State.
Final Ranking: AP 4, Coaches 4

1991: 11-2. The Noles were 10-0 before losing to eventual national champion Miami in Wide Right I, and lost the game after to a Florida team that finished 10-2. Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M.
Final Ranking: AP 4, Coaches 4

1992: 11-1, with the one loss coming to Miami in Wide Right II. Orange Bowl win over Nebraska.
Final Ranking: AP 2, Coaches 2

1993: 11-1, national champions. The loss came in the epic showdown in South Bend in a 31-24 loss to Notre Dame. Orange Bowl win over Nebraska for the title.
Final Ranking: AP 1, Coaches 1

1994: 10-1-1. The loss came to Miami, the tie came in an epic comeback against Florida. The Noles won the rematch with the Gators in the Sugar Bowl.
Final Ranking: AP 4, Coaches 5

1995: 10-2. One loss came to Tiki Barber and Virginia when Warrick Dunn came up just short of the goal line on the game's final play. The other came against a Florida team that went on to play for the national title. Orange Bowl win over Notre Dame.
Final Ranking: AP 4, Coaches 5

1996: 11-1. Beat Florida on the final game of the regular season, but lost the rematch in the Sugar Bowl.
Final Ranking: AP 3, Coaches 3

1997: 11-1. Lost at Florida in a classic, won the Sugar Bowl over Ohio State.
Final Ranking: AP 3, Coaches 3

1998: 11-2. Lost to Torry Holt and NC State in a stunner early in the season, but went on to play Tennessee for the national title, and lost, in the Fiesta Bowl.
Final Ranking: AP 3, Coaches 3

1999: 12-0. Won the national title beating Michael Vick and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
Final Ranking: AP 1, Coaches 1

2000: 11-2. Lost to Miami in Wide Right III. Went on to lose the national title to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
Final Ranking: AP 5, Coaches 4
Florida State became the cool team. Miami, during the same time that Bowden's program was hitting its stride, was the big bad boy on the block with attitude and swagger, but FSU was the hip team that was fresh, new, and arrived as not just a new national title contender, but as a superpower seemingly overnight. Under Bowden, the players were flashy and fast (Deion, Buckley, Ward, Dunn, and on and on), the defenses were terrifying, the offenses broke the wishbone mold occupied by the Oklahomas and Nebraskas of the world, and the games were fun with trick plays, innovative ideas, and a pedal-to-the-metal, always go for the win type of approach highlighted by the fake punt to Leroy Butler to help pull off a classic 24-21 win over a juggernaut of a Clemson team in 1989, and the missed two-point conversion when going for the win, rather than the tie, in the 26-25 loss to Miami in 1987.

Bowden's teams never ducked anyone, always played the big boys tough, and were always, always good thanks to his charm, his humor, and his character. In a time when ESPN became bigger and polls, bowl slots, and recruiting were influenced more and more by TV time and sound bytes, the stars wanted to play for Bowden. Personality matters in college coaching, just ask Notre Dame fans who had to live through the Ty Willingham era only to be followed up by the Charlie Weis experience. Bowden had the perfect mix of gracious disappointment after losses and genuine humility after wins, even while his teams were bold and brash and dynamic and perfect for rooting against. But Bowden was always easy to root for.

In a profession occupied by so many insufferable blowhards who really and truly believe they're curing cancer by creating a winning football team, Bowden got it, at least as much as any legendary football coach can. He suffered some of the most soul-crushing, heart-ripping defeats (thank you, Miami) on some of the biggest stages in college football, and for a while he was defined by the big losses more than for the wins, and he was always handling himself, and represented the school, with the utmost class. He set the bar so high that his recent teams have been seen as failures by comparison, and that's not fair.

The last few years really haven't been that bad. Florida State will go to a bowl this season, just like it has in 29 of the previous 30 years, and if Bowden can pull off a win in his final game, under his reign, Florida State will have finished with a winning record in every year since 1976. But winning seasons don't get it done in Tallahassee; not after the unmatchable run of greatness Bowden's teams put together over two decades.

He took a program that had won four games in three years and in two seasons he had an 11-0 squad going into the Orange Bowl. His Noles lost to Oklahoma, and his 1980 team, which was even better, finished 10-2 losing to Miami and Oklahoma, again in the Orange Bowl, by a total of two points. That loss to the Sooners would be the last time Florida State would lose a bowl game until the 1997 Sugar Bowl, the national title, to Florida.

Starting in 1981, Bowden went 16-3-1 in bowls until losing to a 13-1 Georgia team in the 2002 Sugar Bowl. The three losses were to Florida, Tennessee, and Oklahoma … in national championships. The numbers tend to all blend together after a while, but Bowden's greatness boils down to an epic 14-year run that college football might not see again.

The simplest stat might be this. Over 14 years, Florida State only lost seven games to teams other than Miami and Florida. Two of those were national championships (Tennessee in 1998 and Oklahoma in 2000), and one was in 1993 to a Notre Dame team that probably deserved the national title. In the span, FSU won two national championship games, lost two others, and came within two missed field goals, a missed throw in the end zone, and an all-timer of a touchdown catch from Florida's Jacquez Green from winning four more national championships. Of the 19 losses during this era, four were to teams that won the national title, and three more were to teams that went on to play for the national championship and lost.

While the last nine years since the loss to Oklahoma in the 2001 Orange Bowl have been underwhelming by FSU's standards, Bowden still came up with three ACC titles, won four bowl games, and continued to crank out winning records. But the 6-6 record this year, bottoming out by looking like a second-rate team in the loss to Florida last week, meant it was time to move on for both Bowden and Florida State football.

Beyond all the wins and all the greatness, Bowden proved to be a blueprint of how to handle adversity at an elite program. He might not have always handled everything perfectly, and there were incidents under his watch like the recent academic scandal, several off-the-field issues, most notably the Peter Warrick shoplifting incident, but Bowden never shied away from the media, never tried to sweep the controversies under the rug, and his teams kept on fighting through and producing through the adversity.

But his legacy will be all about the wins and the unprecedented run of top four seasons on the field, and his "dadgum" personality off of it. He was what we all want in our football coaches and what we all hope the future stars will be like. But there will never be another Bobby Bowden.


Click to learn more...