Legendary college football coach Bobby Bowden passes away at 91

Riley Platt, Sports Reporter

Not many can say they lived half the life that former college football coach Bobby Bowden did. After announcing that he was terminally ill in July, Bowden passed away at the age of 91.

During ACC Media Days, sad news broke regarding the health condition of Bowden. The Birmingham native is best known for his time at Florida State University, serving as the head coach for the Seminoles from 1976 until his retirement in 2009. Throughout his five decades as a head coach, Bowden racked up a total of 377 wins, ranking second in NCAA history.

 Featured image: Bobby Bowden celebrates with his team following a victory over West Virginia in the 2010 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, his final game (The Florida Times-Union/Bob Self)

More accomplishments include national championships in 1993 and 1999, along with 12 ACC championships. Despite the accolades, Bowden is more often remembered as the outstanding person that he was off the field. It’s easy to see this when you consider how many lives he was able to impact throughout a half-century in the sport. 

Former FSU and Jacksonville Jaguars lineman Todd Fordham referenced this in an interview with 1010XL, stating that Bowden served as a “father figure” for many of his players. 

Along with the many lives he touched, Bowden also had connections with the Jacksonville area. One example of this can be found with Leon Washington, Andrew Jackson High School graduate and former FSU running back. In an interview with First Coast News, Washington referred to Bowden as a “tremendous leader” that “did the right thing all the time.” 

Interestingly enough, Bowden’s coaching career reached its end in Jacksonville on New Year’s Day in 2010. The Seminoles faced his former squad, West Virginia, in the Gator Bowl following a disappointing 6-6 campaign in Tallahassee. While the season didn’t exactly live up to the Bobby Bowden standard, FSU pushed through and won 33-21 to send their beloved coach out with a victory.

 Bowden and Meyer embrace following the UF vs. FSU game in 2008 (AP Photo/Phil Coale)

Bowden’s legacy even transcends leagues, as first-year Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer was yet another whose life was positively impacted by Bowden. Meyer was the head coach of the Florida Gators from 2005 through 2010, finding himself facing off with the FSU Seminoles annualy. Meyer actually won all five of his meetings against Bowden while at UF, earning him the respect of the legend.

Following the news of Bowden’s passing, Meyer reflected on his friend prior to the Jaguars scrimmage event on Sunday. “I love Bobby Bowden… He couldn’t be more genuine of a person, him and [wife] Ann. Obviously we coached against each other, but compared to the time we spent together on those Nike trips – a dear friend and one of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my life.”

Reading through the stories of those who were a part of Bowden’s life, it’s easy to see why he was so respected. The news of his terminal illness rocked the sports world, but Bowden even faced this with grace and dignity. When announcing the initial news, Bowden stated that “I’ve always tried to serve God’s purpose for my life, on and off the field, and I am prepared for what is to come.” 

While his passing has caused grief for many, it’s safe to say that he lived a full life. In a world of selfishness, Bowden strived to put others first. And dadgummit, he did just that.


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