Bobby Bowden, born November 8, 1929, was an American college football coach and one of the greatest and the most successful the game has ever seen. He started as a quarterback at the University of Alabama and went on to coach and win titles with Florida State University, making them one of America’s most competitive programs. Bowden not only coached college football teams but also coached and headed track and field teams, basketball, and baseball teams. He ended his career as one of the most celebrated coaches in National Collegiate Athletic Association (N.C.A.A.) history. On August 8, 2021, Bobby Bowden died in Tallahassee, Florida.
Bobby Bowden was born on November 8, 1929, to Bob Bowden and Sunset Cleckler in Birmingham, Alabama. At age 13, Bowden was diagnosed with rheumatic fever, which kept him in bed — in the hospital and at home — for close to two years. During that period, he developed an interest in World War II reports and college football. Bowden attended Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, where he excelled as a football player and obtained a scholarship to play as a quarterback for the University of Alabama. However, after one semester, Bowden returned to his hometown, eloped with his high school sweetheart — Ann Astock — and got married. Due to that, he was unable to continue with his scholarship. He later transferred to Howard College (now Samford University) and participated in football, baseball, and track.
Bowden graduated from Howard College in 1953 and returned as an assistant football coach and head track and field coach. He left after two years to become the athletic director and head coach for South Georgia College (1956 to 1958). Bowden returned to Howard College as head coach in 1959 and left again in 1962 after compiling a 31-6 record. In 1962, Bowden moved up to the highest level of collegiate football (the University Division, now called the Football Bowl Subdivision). He first became the assistant coach for Florida State University (1962 to 1965) and then the assistant coach for West Virginia University (1966 to 1969). He was later promoted to the head coach position in 1970 after the former head coach Jim Carlen left for Texas Tech. Bowden guided the West Virginia Mountaineers to two bowl appearances and had a 42-26 record.
In 1976, Bobby Bowden became the head coach for Florida State University (F.S.U.) Seminoles, where he had a successful coaching career spanning over three decades. He only had a losing season in his first year as head coach, ending 1976 with a 5-6 record. Since then, from 1987 to 2000, the Seminoles finished every season with at least 10 wins and in the top five of the Associated Press (A.P.) College Football Poll. He guided the team to win the national championship in 1993 and 1999, winning or sharing nine consecutive conference titles (1992 to 2000). Bobby Bowden spent the last few years of his coaching career competing with Joe Paterno, head coach of Pennsylvania State University, for the record of the most major college coaching victories in a career. He lost that race in 2010 to Joe Paterno after the N.C.A.A. stripped the F.S.U. of 12 wins from the 2006 and 2007 seasons due to academic fraud. Bowden ended his career with 377 wins, 129 losses, and four ties.
Bowden starts his coaching career as an assistant football coach and head track and field coach at his alma mater, Howard College.
Bowden leaves Howard College and takes up the position of assistant coach for F.S.U., marking the beginning of his career at the highest level of collegiate football.
Bowden starts his illustrious career as the head coach of F.S.U.’s Seminoles, finishing with 377 wins, two national championships, and 12 Atlantic Coast Conference titles.
Bowden receives the 2006 N.F.F. Gold Medal.
Bowden makes his final appearance as a coach in the Gator Bowl, with his team beating West Virginia University.
Why We Love Bobby Bowden
He was one of the greatest coaches in college football
Bowden had one of the best coaching careers in college football history. As the head coach of F.S.U., he won two national championships, finished every season from 1987 to 2000 with at least 10 wins, and was among the top five teams in the A.P. College Football Poll. Also, he holds the N.C.A.A.’s record of 11 consecutive bowl victories and 14 straight bowl trips without a loss.
Bowden revolutionized F.S.U.’s Seminoles
After joining F.S.U. as the head coach in 1976, Bowden began a journey that transformed F.S.U.’s Seminoles into a dominant program. He took the Seminoles from perennial losers to a college football powerhouse that lasted for over a decade, with titles and records only a few teams can boast of.
He was also a philanthropist
Bowden didn’t only make an impact on the field, but he also touched hearts off the field. Many people have recounted how he has helped and set them on the right path. In 2011, he was awarded the Children's Champion Award for Leadership Development by the Children's Hunger Fund for his humanitarian work.
5 Surprising Facts
He has won many personal awards
Bowden has won many awards since the start of his coaching career, including Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year, Walter Camp Coach of the Year, Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award, and the N.F.F. Gold Medal.
He is a Hall of Famer
Bowden is a member of the American College Football Hall of Fame.
He has an award named after him
The annual Bobby Bowden National Collegiate Coach of the Year Award is presented by the Over the Mountain Touchdown Club of Birmingham and the Alabama Sports Foundation to honor coaches who demonstrate the same qualities that Bowden possessed.
One of the most successful careers
Bobby Bowden finished his career with 377 wins in 46 years.
A member of Ki Kappa Alpha
Bowden joined the college fraternity while at Howard College and was elected as his chapter’s president in his junior and senior years.
Bobby Bowden FAQs
Why did Bobby Bowden retire?
Bowden didn’t retire. After a dreadful season in 2009, President T.K. Wetherell of F.S.U. decided to fire him.
How many wins did Bobby Bowden have at F.S.U.?
Bowden had a final career record of 377 wins, 315 of those at Florida State University (F.S.U.).
Did Bobby Bowden play football?
Yes, Bowden played football during his high school years at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham. His success in the game won him a scholarship to play for the University of Alabama as a quarterback.
Bobby Bowden’s birthday dates