Dec. 22, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – When it comes to shear numbers, Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden’s 388 victories, 34 seasons and two national championships are indisputable evidence in support of a legendary career.
On Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009, Bowden watched over the Seminoles final workout at the Al Dunlap practice field, a routine he’s repeated an estimated 4,250 times over the course of his career. FSU wrapped up its in-town preparation for the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, which will mark the final game of Bowden’s Hall of Fame career.
Before driving off the field in his golf cart for the final time, Bowden – as has been ritual – stopped to visit with the media throng on hand, where he reminisced about the past and talked about the future. Here is a transcript of his final post-practice interview:
“I thought practice ended up pretty good. We got in about an hour and had a big meeting about what we’re going to do when we get over to the bowl game. I couldn’t tell any difference with this preparation and any other years we’ve had. It seemed like everything went good. We got in all of our practices. The kids will meet us over in Jacksonville. We’ll meet with them, go over our plans and practice with them that afternoon. It’s a game week leading up to the ballgame.”
What was that ride like over here, knowing that it will probably be the last time your riding in this golf cart off the practice field?
“I didn’t think about that. I did think this might be the last time I’m on this field.”
When do you think it will hit you hardest?
“I don’t know. I have never tried to make football my God. I think the coaches that make it their God have a struggle and have a hard time taking lickings and things like that. To me, I’m just fixing to start a new life. That’s the way I look at it.”
Is there some excitement about it, too?
“It’s going to be different. It’s going to be a change, but at my age it’s the direction I should be going.”
By my account you’ve presided over more than 2,000 practices out here:
“I’m tired (laughing). You’ve reminded me, I’m tired. That is a lot dadgum practices, but they’ve all been enjoyable. The kids here, they’ve really worked hard. I’ve heard fewer complaints than I can ever remember.”
Did any of the assistant coaches say anything to you today about this being your last practice out here?
“No. They might have said something in meetings.”
Coaches aren’t as sentimental as the rest of us?
“In the years I’ve worked I’ve had great relationships with the press. They’ve been very fair to me; all of you all have been very fair to me. The only thing I wish, I wish I could have done better. You’re never satisfied. You’re never satisfied, because that’s one reason you stay in it as long as you do. You always think there’s one more chance; one more chance for having a big year. That’s the way life is.”
You’ve had your fair share coach:
“Yeah, we did. Just like I’ve told you, I look at it for 56 years, not what happened last year, or the last four years or five years.”
Are you going to miss anything about this place?
“I’m sure I will. I’m sure I will. After you’ve graduated from college in January, you went immediately to graduate school and got your masters degree, immediately came back to that school and started coaching – that was 56 years ago. All of a sudden, that’s not your life any more. I don’t know what that means as far as emotions are concerned. I hope it doesn’t mean a darn thing. Like I say, I didn’t make football my God, so it’s not like, ‘I’m through, I’m going to cut my wrists.’ No, there’s too many big things in life for that. That’s not your No. 1 priority in life.”
What haven’t you done, that you’ve put off because of your career, that you’d really like to do now … something with (wife) Ann or something you’d like to do?
“Naturally you haven’t spent enough time with her because you’ve been recruiting, you’ve been on the road, you’ve been going to games; you haven’t had a Christmas in 28 years where you didn’t have a bowl game to be concerned about. Now I will not have to be concerned about that any more.”
Any particular travel you’d like to do?
“There’s a lot I’d like to do, but I’ve got to see what’s out there for me right now. It’s going to take a while. All of a sudden I don’t have a secretary bringing my mail to me. Now it’s got to come to my house. I’ve got to open the doggone things. When I get organized and things are coming in like they should, Ann and I will probably leave town and let the next coach have it. I’ll be pulling for him. I’ll always pull for Florida State.”
Some people have said if you could have gone out on top in ’99 or 2000, but if you had, then you would have always wondered how much more you could have done?
“I’m sure. A lot of people said, ‘It’s a shame he couldn’t have gone off when he was on top.’ In 56 years, what difference does that make? I had some great, enjoyable years after that, even though we didn’t win as many games. I didn’t think we were a lucky team this year. I didn’t think we were a lucky team. There were too many games where we came out with a loss – because of this or because of that we didn’t make it. I hope that they can get that all straightened out next year, winning enough games.”
When you got here, was this what the practice field looked like?
“We had a tunnel right here and there was a highway going across there (pointing to the gate area and where Pensacola St. used to connect). You had to go under the road to get to the practice field. This house (practice field training facility) has been added. That tall tower was here back when I was an assistant coach, back in ’66. I keep waiting for it to … I ain’t leaning on it. Then the other (tower) they fixed up for me. It’s been about 10 years or something and it has really been nice because you can see everything.
“You know what the big changes is, of course the highway up yonder wasn’t there. Those were pine trees where that wall is. Of course these trees that separate the field right there, I doubt there’s one of those that was here. All of those were planted since I was here. … These (big old) oak trees, I can remember them when I was an assistant coach, because one time – Coach (Bill) Peterson was the head coach – and somebody climbed up that tree and was watching us practice. Pete ran over there and accused them of being from Georgia. ‘Let me see your driver’s license! Let me see your driver’s license!’ So they were there, but probably much smaller. The topography of the fields – it’s still three levels. They have been lengthened some.”
Jimbo Fisher mentioned that he was kind of torn, but that he still wants to work with quarterbacks. How do you think he’s going to handle that?
“I hope he does. He could do – and I’ve mentioned this to him – when I first started, I had been here eight or nine years and hired Mark Richt as a GA to work with the quarterbacks. I still coached them, but there would be times where I couldn’t be with them, so I’d let him take them. I hope he’ll stay with calling plays. He has a great knack for calling plays. He has got it. A lot of people don’t have the knack. He’s got a knack for calling plays and he’s got a great mind for offensive football. I hope he’s still able to coach that quarterback and call plays. If he’s like me and Steve Spurrier and a lot of the older guys, he’ll probably do it as long as he can and eventually have to turn it over to somebody.”
You don’t see him (Fisher) going up in the tower anytime soon?
“No, I think he’s more of a hands-on, especially if he’s going to coach quarterbacks.”
Is this the same golf cart you’ve had riding out here all these years?
“I think so. I don’t know how long I’ve had this golf cart; probably eight years or so. Is this the same one? I don’t know.”
On going home for the holiday:
“I hope the kids will be careful going home. Back in 1966 when I was at West Virginia, our boys took off for Christmas and one of them got killed over in Baltimore, Md.; it might have been around D.C. I always remind the kids about that when they’re going home.”
Have you ever really stopped to think and reflect on the great teams and players in college football history who have come together right in this spot?
“Ocassionally I think of that, but not a lot. There’s always another day. I don’t look back a lot. Now, probably when I get done, I probably start looking back some.”
If it wasn’t for the media, would it have occured to you that this is your last practice here?
“It occured to me, but there’s nothing big about it. It’s just another practice to me.”