December 29, 2000 - by
Bowden Enjoying Life At The Top

Dec. 29, 2000



By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
MIAMI –
The Florida State caravan of motorcycles, police cars and buses
pulls into the parking lot, and out hops a man wearing maroon from head to toe.
Walking briskly to the practice field, he leads the way for the assistants
and players, security personnel, reporters, photographers and fans.

At 71, Bobby Bowden shows no sign of slowing down.

“Concessions to age?” he says. “I don’t cut back. I can’t let that
change. If it does, you start going downhill.”

Bowden stubbornly clings to the pinnacle of college football. The
third-ranked Seminoles (11-1) will bid for their third national championship
since 1993 when they play top-ranked Oklahoma (12-0) Wednesday in the Orange
Bowl.

Bowden’s longevity is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of his success. For
25 years in Tallahassee, professional hazards ranging from burnout to boosters
have left him unscathed, and the occasional scandal has left him untarnished.
He remains widely beloved by fans, rivals and his players.

“Tallahassee is a warm, fuzzy place, and it starts with him,” says Jim
Gladden, an assistant to Bowden since 1976. “He makes you feel comfortable.
You never get the feeling with Coach Bowden that there’s a hidden agenda. What
you see is what you get.”

What you see is the antithesis of the moody, egomaniacal, paranoid control
freak that is the prototypical head football coach.

Bowden is none of those things. He delegates well. He takes naps. He laughs
a lot. And he relates to players more than 50 years younger than him.

“Fads and times change, but people still want to know that you care about
them and you’re going to treat them fairly,” Seminoles offensive coordinator
Mark Richt says. “Coach cares about the players’ well-being more than about
the wins and losses. That’s all they need to know.”

Wins and losses are also important, and Bowden excels there, too. He is
315-86-4 (.783) in 35 seasons, and his win total ranks behind only Paul
“Bear” Bryant (323), Joe Paterno (322) and Pop Warner (319). He’ll probably
pass Bryant next season.

Last year Bowden turned 70, celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary, reached
300 wins and led the Seminoles to their first unbeaten season since 1950. He
achieves milestones so often that the prospect of winning back-to-back national
championships is almost an afterthought.

“That would just be another nice thing, that’s all,” he says. “Winning
the game itself would be as meaningful as anything.”

Yet no one appreciates better than Bowden the reign of Florida State, a
forlorn football school when he came to Tallahassee in 1976. He went 5-6 the
first year and hasn’t had a losing season since.

“When I came to Florida State, we were Homecoming University,” he said.
“We were on everybody’s schedule as the homecoming opponent.”

For 13 years in a row the Seminoles have finished ranked in the top four.
They’ve beaten Florida, Miami, Notre Dame, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State and
North Carolina. They’ve gone 16-4-1 under Bowden in bowl games.

When Georgia hired Richt this week as head coach, Bowden cackled.
“It’s changed, hasn’t it, when Florida State furnishes an assistant coach
as the head coach at Georgia,” he said.

Like Steve Spurrier at Florida and Butch Davis at Miami, Bowden benefits
from the most fertile recruiting base in the nation.

“There are so many players from the state of Florida, we can’t get them
all,” he says. “Miami can’t, either. Neither can Florida. Half of them are
going to get out of the state.”

By all accounts Bowden is a terrific salesman, wooing prospects with his
quick wit and charming Alabama drawl. These days he’s trying to sell his
players on the idea that Florida State – a 12-point favorite – has reason to
fear Oklahoma.

“This is our sixth Orange Bowl. It’s their 17th,” he says. “We’re trying
to win our first back-to-back. They’ve done it twice. So we don’t know what to
be scared of.”

The logic is dubious, and he knows it, so he rocks on his heels with
laughter.

The man in maroon seems to enjoy being Bobby Bowden.

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