American Football Wiki
Bobby Bowden
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born November 8 1929 (1929-11-08) (age 92)
Place of birth Birmingham, Alabama
Playing career
Alabama (freshman team)
Howard (AL)
Position(s) Quarterback
(Alabama and Howard)
Running back
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Howard (AL) (OC)
South Georgia JC
Howard (AL)
Florida State (WR)
West Virginia (OC)
West Virginia
Florida State
Head coaching record
Overall 377–129–4, 12 wins vacated. Bowden won 411 total games as a Head Coach. His wins at 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)
Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award (1991)
Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (2011)
Career player statistics (if any)'
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006 (profile)

Robert Cleckler "Bobby" Bowden (November 8, 1929 - August 8, 2021) is a retired college 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 announced his retirement from FSU on December 1, 2009, just weeks after his 80th birthday. His final coaching appearance was the 2010 Gator Bowl game on January 1, 2010, with a 33–21 victory over his former program, West Virginia.

Bowden finished his career second in all-time wins by a Division I-FBS coach with 389 wins.[1] A March 6, 2009 NCAA ruling requiring Florida State to "vacate wins for any games in which an ineligible player participated," threatening 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.[2][3][4] The NCAA upheld the ruling on January 5, 2010.[5] Upon final investigation by Florida State University it was determined that Bowden was to vacate 12 wins,[1] bringing his final career record to 377–129–4.

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). Bowden graduated from Howard in 1953.

Early coaching career

Bowden served as an assistant football coach and head track and field coach at Howard College (now known as Samford University, currently in the FCS football division) in Birmingham, Alabama from 1954–55. He left his alma mater to become Athletic Director as well as head football, baseball, and basketball coach at South Georgia College from 1956 to 1958. Bowden then returned to Howard as head coach, where he compiled a 31–6 record between 1959 and 1962. In 1962, Bowden went to Florida State University as an assistant coach under Head Coach Bill Peterson. Two other coaching legends who worked under Coach Peterson during this time were 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 ultimately filled by crash victim Rick Tolley.[6]

Florida State

File:Bowden comments on his first season as head coach of Florida State University's football program.ogv

Bowden comments on his second season as head coach of Florida State University's football program in 1977

File:Bobby Bowden-FSU 2006.jpg

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 Morgantown, and because 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.Template:R

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.


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 Coach 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: Preserverance, 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 National Bobby Bowden Award, honoring one college football player for his achievements on the field, in the classroom and in the community. The award is presented each year prior to the BCS 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 fifth or higher 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

Template:CBB Yearly Record Subtotal

Florida State Seminoles (ACC) (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 7–6 ‡ 3–5 ‡ 5th (Atlantic) V Emerald
2007 Florida State 7–6 ‡ 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 (1992-2009): 161-53 111–27
Total: 377–129–4
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.

‡ Twelve results, including six conference results, were vacated for use of ineligible players in 2006 and 2007. Five victories from 2006 and seven from 2007 were ultimately vacated by the NCAA.


Bobby Bowden has co-authored several books, including:

Books about Bobby Bowden's early coaching years:

Books about Bobby Bowden's entire career:

Books which feature contributions from Bobby Bowden:

See also

  • List of Florida State Seminoles head football coaches
  • List of College Football Hall of Fame inductees (coaches)
  • List of college football coaches with 200 wins



External links