Bobby Bowden

Bobby Bowden

Bobby Bowden
Bobby Bowden pictured in 2007
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born (1929-11-08) November 8, 1929
Birmingham, Alabama
Alma mater Samford University
Playing career
1948 Alabama (freshman team)
1949–1952 Howard (AL)
Position(s) Quarterback, running back
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1954–1955 Howard (AL) (OC)
1956–1958 South Georgia JC
1959–1962 Howard (AL)
1963–1965 Florida State (WR)
1966–1969 West Virginia (OC)
1970–1975 West Virginia
1976–2009 Florida State
Head coaching record

*12 wins vacated.

(Bobby has a total of 411 wins as head coach. His 22 wins from South Georgia College are also not counted by the NCAA)
Bowls 21–10–1
*1 win vacated
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
2 National (1993, 1999)
12 ACC (1992–2000, 2002–2003, 2005)
2 ACC Atlantic Division (2005) (2008)
Bobby Dodd COY (1980)
Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award (1991)
Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (2011)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006 (profile)

Robert Cleckler "Bobby" Bowden (born November 8, 1929) is a retired American football coach. He coached the Florida State Seminoles football team from the 1976 to 2009 seasons. During his time at Florida State, Bowden led FSU to an Associated Press and Coaches Poll National Title in 1993 and a BCS National Championship in 1999, as well as twelve Atlantic Coast Conference championships since FSU joined the conference in 1991. After a difficult 2009 season and amid questioning fans, Bowden stepped down, just weeks after his 80th birthday. But he was allowed to make his final coaching appearance in the 2010 Gator Bowl game on January 1, 2010, with a 33–21 victory over his former program, West Virginia.

On the day of March 6, 2009 NCAA ruling requiring Florida State to "vacate wins for any games in which an ineligible player participated," threatened to remove as many as 14 of Bowden's wins from the 2006 and 2007 seasons in relation to an academic scandal. Florida State appealed the ruling,[1][2][3] but the NCAA upheld it on January 5, 2010.[4] Upon final investigation by Florida State University it was determined that Bowden was to vacate 12 wins,[5] bringing his final career record to 377–129–4. This places him second to Joe Paterno, former coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions.


  • Youth and early life 1
  • Early coaching career 2
  • Florida State 3
  • Personal life 4
    • Sons who coach 4.1
      • The Bowden Bowl 4.1.1
  • Awards 5
    • Awards named after him 5.1
  • Head coaching record 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • See also 8
  • Sources 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Youth and early life

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Bowden spent a portion of his childhood in bed, sick. Bowden is the son of Bob Bowden and Sunset (née Cleckler) Bowden. When he was 13 years old, Bowden was diagnosed with rheumatic fever. After a six month hospital stay, Bowden was confined to his bed at home for just over a year with nothing more than his imagination to pass the time. It was listening to World War II reports on the radio that began Bowden's interest in the war, an interest he still has to this day. It was also around this time that his love for football increased, as he would listen to University of Alabama football on Saturday mornings.

Bowden was an outstanding football player at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, and went on to play for the University of Alabama as a quarterback, fulfilling a lifelong dream to play for the Crimson Tide. He then returned to Birmingham and married his high school sweetheart, Ann Estock, on April 1, 1949. Today, the couple have six children and 21 grandchildren. Bobby transferred to Howard College (now Samford University), where he became a brother in Pi Kappa Alpha. Bowden graduated from Howard in 1953.

Early coaching career

Bowden served as an assistant football coach and head Bill Parcells and Joe Gibbs. Bowden left Florida State in 1965 to go to West Virginia University as an assistant under Jim Carlen. When Carlen left following the 1969 season to become head coach at Texas Tech, Bowden replaced him. Bowden then compiled a 42–26 record at WVU before returning to FSU as head coach in 1976.

During Bowden's first year as head coach at WVU, the football team of the state's other top-division school, Marshall University, fell victim to a tragic plane crash. Bowden asked NCAA permission to wear Marshall jerseys and play Marshall's final game of the 1970 season against Ohio, but was denied. In memory of the victims of the crash, Mountaineers players put green crosses and the initials "MU" on their helmets. Bowden allowed Marshall's new head coach Jack Lengyel and his assistants access to game film and playbooks to acquaint themselves with the veer offense, a variation of the option offense which aids teams with weak offensive lines. Lengyel credits Bowden with helping the young Thundering Herd recover. Bowden reportedly became emotional while viewing the movie We Are Marshall, and has said that he was the original candidate for the Marshall head coaching job vacated by crash victim Rick Tolley.[6]

Florida State

Bowden comments on his second season as head coach of Florida State University's football program in 1977
Bobby Bowden on the sidelines of the November 4, 2006 game against Virginia

Bowden became the head coach of the Florida State Seminoles because the climate was warmer than in Tallahassee was closer to Birmingham, Alabama, where his mother and mother-in-law both lived. The team had a 4–29 record over the previous three seasons, and Bowden planned to stay only briefly before taking a better job, perhaps as head coach at Alabama.[7]

Bowden coaching at Florida State

During his 34 years as Florida State's head coach he had only one losing season—his first, in 1976—and declined head coaching job offers from Alabama, Auburn, Louisiana State, and the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. From 1987 to 2000 the Seminoles finished every season with at least 10 wins and in the top 5 of the Associated Press College Football Poll, and won the national championship in 1993 and 1999.[7]

Personal life

Bowden is a committed Christian[8] who credits his success in football to his faith.

Sons who coach

Bobby is not the only member of his family to have coached Division I-A football. His son Tommy Bowden was the head coach at Clemson University. Another son, Terry Bowden, was the head coach at Auburn University, where he was the 1993 Coach of the Year. A third son, Jeff Bowden, was the offensive coordinator at Florida State. All three Bowden men who were head coaches have achieved an undefeated season: Terry in 1993 at Auburn; Tommy in 1998 at Tulane; and Bobby in 1999 at Florida State. Bobby's 1993 and 1999 Florida State teams were the only ones to win a National Championship, however. Terry and Jeff currently coach at the University of Akron.

The Bowden Bowl

As both Florida State and Clemson are in the same division of the Atlantic Coast Conference for football, the two teams played each other every year from 1999 through 2007 in a game that became known as "The Bowden Bowl". Their 1999 meeting was the first time in Division I-A history that a father and a son met as opposing head coaches in a football game. Bobby held the edge in the series 5–4, with all four losses within the last five games. Tommy Bowden's four wins in the series remain the only times a son has ever beaten his father when facing off as head coach in any of America's four major sports.

One Bowden Bowl was scheduled between Auburn and Florida State for 1999 when Terry Bowden was the coach at Auburn. However, Terry's midseason resignation in 1998 ended the possibility of a Bowden Bowl. Another Bowden Bowl was scheduled between Clemson and Florida State in 2008, but Tommy Bowden's resignation halfway through the year ended the Bowden Bowls. Florida State beat Clemson in what would have been the 2008 Bowden Bowl on Bobby Bowden's 79th birthday, earning him his 380th career win.


Bowden was awarded the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award for 1980. He received the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award for 1991. In 1992 Coach Bowden received the United States Sports Academy's Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award in recognition of his outstanding achievement as a coach.[9]

Awards named after him

On March 21, 2010, the Over the Mountain Touchdown Club of Birmingham, Alabama presented the first annual Bobby Bowden National Collegiate Coach of the Year Award, named in honor of Bowden and the contributions that he made during his career. The award recognizes a coach each year with unmatched success on and off of the field in the same attributes that Coach Bowden showed throughout his career: Perseverance, Attitude, Integrity, and Determination. University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban was the first recipient of the award that was presented by Bobby Bowden himself. The award is presented each year after national signing day and before the commencement of Spring practice.

In 2004, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes presented the first of what is now a yearly award in Bowden's name. The award was initiated by former Bowden assistant coach Vince Gibson and former Bowden player Vernon Brinson. It honors one college football player for his achievements on the field, in the classroom and in the community. In 2013 the Seminole Tribe of Florida became the official sponsor of the award. The Seminole Tribe of Florida Bobby Bowden Student Athlete of the Year Award is presented each year prior to the College Football Playoff (CFP) national title.

In 2011, in recognition of his philanthropic efforts with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bowden received the Children's Champion Award for Leadership Development from the charitable organization Children's Hunger Fund.[10]

Head coaching record

In his 44 seasons as a head coach, Bowden had 40 winning seasons (including 33 consecutive at Florida State), and 36 Division 1-A winning seasons. During the period 1987–2000, Bowden coached Florida State to 14 straight seasons with 10 or more victories, and his team had a final ranking of fourth or better in both of the major polls.

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Howard Bulldogs (Independent) (1959–1962)
1959 Howard 9–1
1960 Howard 8–1
1961 Howard 7–2
1962 Howard 7–2
Howard: 31–6
West Virginia Mountaineers (Independent) (1970–1975)
1970 West Virginia 8–3
1971 West Virginia 7–4
1972 West Virginia 8–4 L Peach
1973 West Virginia 6–5
1974 West Virginia 4–7
1975 West Virginia 9–3 W Peach 17 20
West Virginia: 42–26
Florida State Seminoles (Independent) (1976–1991)
1976 Florida State 5–6
1977 Florida State 10–2 W Tangerine 11 14
1978 Florida State 8–3
1979 Florida State 11–1 L Orange 8 6
1980 Florida State 10–2 L Orange 5 5
1981 Florida State 6–5
1982 Florida State 9–3 W Gator 10 13
1983 Florida State 8–4 (7–5) ^ W Peach
1984 Florida State 7–3–2 T Citrus 19 17
1985 Florida State 9–3 W Gator 13 15
1986 Florida State 7–4–1 W All-American 20
1987 Florida State 11–1 W Fiesta 2 2
1988 Florida State 11–1 W Sugar 3 3
1989 Florida State 10–2 W Fiesta 2 3
1990 Florida State 10–2 W Blockbuster 4 4
1991 Florida State 11–2 W Cotton 4 4
Florida State Seminoles (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1992–2009)
1992 Florida State 11–1 8–0 1st W Orange 2 2
1993 Florida State 12–1 8–0 1st W Orange 1 1
1994 Florida State 10–1–1 8–0 1st W Sugar 5 4
1995 Florida State 10–2 7–1 T–1st W Orange 5 4
1996 Florida State 11–1 8–0 1st L Sugar 3 3
1997 Florida State 11–1 8–0 1st W Sugar 3 3
1998 Florida State 11–2 7–1 T–1st L Fiesta 3 3
1999 Florida State 12–0 8–0 1st W Sugar 1 1
2000 Florida State 11–2 8–0 1st L Orange 4 5
2001 Florida State 8–4 6–2 2nd W Gator 15 15
2002 Florida State 9–5 7–1 1st L Sugar 23 21
2003 Florida State 10–3 7–1 1st L Orange 10 11
2004 Florida State 9–3 6–2 2nd W Gator 14 15
2005 Florida State 8–5 5–3 1st (Atlantic) L Orange 23 22
2006 Florida State 2–6 (7–6) ‡ 1–5 (3–5) ‡ 5th (Atlantic) V Emerald
2007 Florida State 0–6 (7–6) ‡ 0–4 (4–4) ‡ 3rd (Atlantic) L Music City
2008 Florida State 9–4 5–3 T–1st (Atlantic) W Champs Sports 23 21
2009 Florida State 7–6 4–4 3rd (Atlantic) W Gator
Florida State: 304–97–4 105–27
Total: 377–129–4
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
Indicates Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance, BCS, or CFP / New Years' Six bowl.
#Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.

^ The 1983 season includes a forfeit win vs. Tulane.
‡ For the 2006 and 2007 seasons 12 wins, including 6 conference wins, were vacated for use of ineligible players. 5 wins from 2006 (including 2 conference wins) and 7 wins from 2007 (including 4 conference wins) were ultimately vacated by the NCAA.


Bobby Bowden has co-authored several books, including:

  • Winning's Only Part of the Game : Lessons of Life and Football (1996) (ISBN 0-446-52050-0)
  • The Bowden Way : 50 Years of Leadership Wisdom (2001) (ISBN 1-56352-684-0)
  • Bobby Bowden's Tales from the Seminole Sideline (2004) (ISBN 1-58261-406-7)
  • Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith, and Football (2010) (ISBN 1-43919-597-8)

Books about Bobby Bowden's early coaching years:

  • Bobby Bowden: Memories of A Legend and his Boys from South Georgia College (2008) (ISBN 978-1-58385-282-8)

Books about Bobby Bowden's entire career:

  • Bobby Bowden: Win by Win (2003) (ISBN 0-7385-1544-2)
  • Bowden: How Bobby Bowden Forged a Football Dynasty (2003) (ISBN 0-0614-7419-3)
  • Pure Gold: Bobby Bowden - An Inside Look (2004) (ISBN 1-5967-0120-X)

Books which feature contributions from Bobby Bowden:

  • Grateful: From Walking On To Winning It All At Florida State By Ryan Sprague, (2010) (ISBN 978-0-9828763-0-5)

See also


  • "ACC Standings" (PDF). 2006 ACC Football Media Guide. Atlantic Coast Conference. Retrieved 2007-01-10. 
  • "Florida State University Coaching Staff" (PDF). 2006 Florida State Football Media Guide. Florida State University Athletics. Retrieved 2007-01-10. 
  • "Florida State University Year-By-Year Record" (PDF). 2006 Florida State Football Media Guide. Florida State University Athletics. Retrieved 2007-01-10. 
  • "West Virginia University Coaching History" (PDF). 2006 West Virginia Football Media Guide. West Virginia University Athletics. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-12-09. Retrieved 2007-01-10. 


  1. ^ NCAA 2007 Football Records, pg 378
  2. ^ "Bobby Bowden profile". 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b Bowden, Bobby. "A Tenure Longer Than Expected and Shorter Than Desired" The New York Times, 31 August 2010.
  8. ^ Bobby Bowden: A Legacy of Coaching Champions for Christ - The 700 Club
  9. ^
  10. ^

External links