Bobby Bowden, the folksy Hall of Fame coach who won more than 350 games and built Florida State into one of college football’s great dynasties with two national championships, has died. He was 91.
Bobby’s son, Terry, confirmed to the Associated Press that his father died at home surrounded by family early Sunday morning. Florida State also announced the news on social media. “It was truly peaceful,” Terry Bowden said in a text message to AP.
Bobby Bowden announced in July that he had a terminal illness that Terry Bowden later said was pancreatic cancer. Bobby Bowden had been treated for prostate cancer more than a decade ago.
“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,” Bowden said at the time. “My wife, Ann, and our family have been life’s greatest blessing. I am at peace.”
With Southern charm and wit, Bowden piled up 377 wins during his 40 years as a major college coach, from tiny Samford his alma mater, then known as Howard College to West Virginia and finally at Florida State, where he went 315-98-4. The Seminoles were a force during his 34 seasons as coach, winning 12 Atlantic Coast Conference championships and national titles in 1993 and 1999.
Bowden retired following the 2009 season with a Gator Bowl win over West Virginia in Florida State’s 28th straight postseason appearance, a victory that gave him his 33rd consecutive winning season. However, a month after he resigned, the NCAA stripped Florida State of victories in 10 sports because of an academic cheating scandal in 2006 and 2007 involving 61 athletes.
Only Penn State’s Joe Paterno is credited with winning more games as a major college football coach. Bowden’s win total ranks fourth across all division in college football history.
Bowden was replaced by his offensive coordinator, Jimbo Fisher, who had been Bowden’s replacement-in-waiting.
“He’s one of the great human beings that’s ever coached and one of the great coaches that’s ever coached,” Fisher said.
Success also brought a glaring spotlight and Bowden’s program was touched by scandal on a few occasions. The school was put on NCAA probation for five years after several players in 1993 accepted free shoes and other sporting goods from a local store. The episode led former Florida coach Steve Spurrier to dub FSU “Free Shoes University.”
Bowden prided himself on adapting to the times and giving players a second chance, but critics said he was soft on discipline with an eye on winning games.
“If short hair and good manners won football games, Army and Navy would play for the national championship every year,” Bowden retorted.
Bowden is survived by his wife of 51 years, Ann; sons Terry, Tommy, Jeff and Steve; and daughters Robyn Hines and Ginger Madden.