Coach Bowden prepares
the troops for battle.
Seminoles Coach is One of the Best
Bowden generates intense loyalty in staff, players.
January 2, 1999
By BILL KACZOR
Associated Press Writer
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) – Distraught over the death of Florida State lineman
Lopez in a shooting near campus in 1986, quarterbacks coach Mark Richt sought
out head coach Bobby Bowden.
“I walked right into his office and he ministered to me the day or two
after that happened, talking about eternal life, eternal things, not just
winning football games,” Richt said.
Called “St. Bobby” by some, the 69-year-old coach’s religious devotion is
part and parcel of a persona that has engendered intense loyalty to and from
his staff and players.
“That enables us to get through bad times,” said Bowden, a Southern
Baptist. “We realize there are things more important than football. In fact
there’s quite a few things. My family is more important than football and my
religion is more important than either one.”
Bowden has had to endure a lot this season in guiding the second-ranked
Seminoles (11-1) to the Fiesta Bowl on Monday for a matchup against No. 1
Tennessee (12-0) for the national championship.
Some of those bad times have included son Terry’s resignation under
as Auburn’s coach, an upset loss to North Carolina State and injuries that
sidelined Florida State’s top two quarterbacks.
After Terry’s mid-season resignation, Bowden gathered his assistants and
told them how much he appreciated their loyalty toward him, said Richt, now
also Florida State’s offensive coordinator.
“It’s just us giving back what he’s given to us,” Richt said. “He’s
earned every ounce of loyalty that we’ve given him.”
That loyalty has enabled Bowden to assemble a staff with longevity almost
unheard of in college football. It includes Richt with 13 seasons, defensive
coordinator Mickey Andrews with 15, assistant head coach Chuck Amato with 17,
running backs coach Billy Sexton with 23 and defensive coach Jim Gladden with
“He gives you a job, a responsibility, he doesn’t tell you how to do it,”
Andrews said. “When you goof up, he’s there to help you, but he doesn’t
micro-manage you and tell you how to do your job.”
His assistants have helped Bowden and Florida State win at least 10 games
for 12 years in a row and achieve a final ranking no lower than fourth for 11
straight years, a record unmatched in college football.
In 23 years at Florida State, Bowden is 219-52-4. Lifetime, including
years at Samford and six at West Virginia, Bowden is 292-84-4. His victory
total is fifth-best among Division I-A coaches. The only active coach who has
more wins is Penn State’s Joe Paterno with 306.
Bowden has one national championship in 1993. That he hasn’t had more
doesn’t bother him.
“I like to win it and I’m disappointed when we don’t, but I came from the
other side of the tracks so I’m just happy to be here,” Bowden said.
In recent years, the offense-minded Bowden has delegated play-calling to
Richt, who has come under fire from some fans for being too conservative. The
ever-loyal Bowden defends his assistant.
“He does exactly what I want him to do,” Bowden said. “Sometimes he looks
conservative because I told him to be conservative.”
Bowden, who gained a reputation as a riverboat gambler in his early
Florida State, seldom needs to use trick plays or take chances now that he has
That doesn’t mean he won’t use them.
“I do it for momentum,” Bowden said. “Tell our coaches if they don’t have
’em in there I’m going to suck my thumb. If you don’t want me to suck my
get me some barnyard plays in, reverses and stuff like that.”
Bowden pulled out a gimmick in the final regular-season game against
Florida. The Seminoles were clinging to a 13-12 lead in the fourth quarter
an apparent 48-yard touchdown run by Travis Minor was called back because of a
The Seminoles scored on the next play when wide receiver Peter Warrick
a 46-yard pass off a reverse and took a 20-12 lead. Florida State added a
goal to win 23-12.
“Coach Bowden called the play,” Richt said. “He didn’t say L-48-Z
reverse pass.’ He just said I want that reverse pass with Pete.’ That’s where
we’ve got to get the right personnel group in the game and the right formation
and the right call.”
Bowden’s success starts with recruiting, a task many coaches dread but
he embraces with the same bubbly enthusiasm and charm that makes him a
on the speaking circuit and among the media.
All-American defensive lineman Corey Simon said Bowden is the same
the cameras are on or off.
“He’s like a father figure to us,” Simon said. “He’s not so big that you
can’t sit down and talk to him as a father or as a coach.”