The Daily Nole

34 Days Until FSU Football: Bobby Bowden Spends 34 Years as FSU Head Coach

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There are 34 days left until Florida State football starts the 2018 season. As part of the offseason, we’re highlighting players, games, and specific moments from FSU football history.

On Monday, it was former FSU defensive end Reinard Wilson and his FSU record 35.5 career sacks.

Today, it’s legendary head coach Bobby Bowden and his 34 seasons as FSU head football coach.

A native of Birmingham, Bowden wasn’t completely unfamiliar with Florida State University when he was named head coach in 1976. Bowden had spent three years as wide receivers coach of the Seminoles from 1963-65 under Bill Peterson, but bringing FSU to the level of respectability that Peterson had seemed like a tall task.

FSU had won just four combined games in the three seasons prior to Bowden’s arrival. In Bowden’s first season of 1976, the Seminoles won five games, finishing with a record of 5-6. Over the next 33 years, Bowden would never have a losing record again.

Head coach Bobby Bowden Seminoles talks to quarterback Blair Williams during a 1981 contest at Pittsburgh. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

In 1977 under Bowden, the Seminoles completed their first 10-win season ever, which was capped by a win over Texas Tech in the Tangerine Bowl. In 1979, FSU finished the regular season undefeated before falling to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. That year and the following would see FSU finish in the top 10 in the final polls.

Bowden helped take the Seminoles to the next level by adopting an “anyone, anytime, anywhere” mentally, going into hostile environments like Nebraska, Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame and leaving with victories. By the late-1980s, FSU had established itself as an elite program.

But for all Bowden’s success, there was something that had eluded the head coach into the early-1990s — a national championship. His Seminoles had come close, falling to rival Miami by one point in 1987 on a missed 2-point conversion and then on missed field goals in 1991 and 1992.

FSU was ranked preseason No. 1 in 1993 and was cruising along until November when it was matched up with No. 2 Notre Dame in a contest dubbed “The Game of the Century”. The Seminoles whittled a 17-point deficit down to seven, but eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward’s final pass was knocked down at the goal line as FSU fell 31-24.

One week later, it was given new life after Boston College upset Notre Dame in South Bend. FSU capped the season with a 62-3 thrashing of NC State, a win at rival Florida and an Orange Bowl thriller over Nebraska on a last-minute field goal by Scott Bentley and a miss by Nebraska’s Byron Bennett.

Bobby Bowden’s first of two national championships was capped with an 18-16 win over Nebraska in thw 1994 Orange Bowl. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Bowden was finally a national champion, but it would come with a blemish. That would change six years later.

In 1999, FSU became the first team ever to go wire-to-wire as No. 1. The Seminoles capped the season with a 46-29 Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech to complete a 12-0 season — the only perfect campaign under Bowden — for a second national championship.

From 1987 until 2000, FSU finished in the AP top 5 every single season — a feat unlikely ever to be paralleled. The final nine years of his career weren’t as fruitful, but during an era FSU fans unaffectionately refer to as “The Lost Decade”, the Seminoles still finished in the top 25 six times and won three ACC championships.

Prior to becoming FSU’s head coach, Bowden spent six years at West Virginia. Appropriately, that’s who his career would conclude against. In the Gator Bowl to close the 2009 season, Bowden’s FSU team had one more upset in them. FSU erased a 14-3 deficit against the No. 18 Mountaineers to win 33-21 and send the legend out a winner.

An outspoken and lovable man of faith, Bowden’s impact at FSU over 34 years was greater than wins on the field — although there were plenty of those. 304 to be exact. But players will talk about how their lives were touched more or as much as the many victories.

In the eight years since his retirement, FSU has remained on the national radar and in 2013, it went 14-0 to win a national championship under former Bowden assistant Jimbo Fisher. FSU hopes for continued success under new head coach Willie Taggart.

Regardless of what happens in the decades to come, Doak Campbell Stadium will long be the house that Bobby built. His bronzed statue outside the stadium only confirms that.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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