‘Bobby first’ seems out of order

The Florida State Seminoles will play in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day. With a record of six wins and six losses, they don’t deserve to be there.

But longtime coach Bobby Bowden announced recently that he would be tossing in the towel at the end of this season — and requested that his last sideline experience be at a bowl in the Sunshine State.

The Gator Bowl obliged and even matched up Bowden’s team of 34 years with the one he previously coached, West Virginia. Tickets for all 77,474 seats in Jacksonville Stadium sold within two hours. Selling tickets is what bowl sponsors are about.

There is some irony in this event, however. Bowden, the fine Baptist layman and exemplary gentleman, has long preached to his players about proper priorities. Yet, in this case, he has put himself first.

Coaches and players from teams that have outperformed Bowden and the Seminoles this season are relegated to lesser bowls in order for his swan song. This is true for Clemson, Boston College and Miami.

Just so you’ll know, none of these is a favorite of mine. My favored team will be in the prestigious Orange Bowl on Jan. 5.

But I would like to have seen good ol’ Bobby and the Seminoles go to a bowl more appropriate for a .500 team — and then attend a big retirement party in Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.

Coach Bowden certainly deserves a fine farewell. It just doesn’t seem like him to plan his own party — especially at the expense of others. But then we all can get blinded by the spotlight at times, dadgumit.


  1. John,

    I'm a big fan of yours, but also a big fan of Bobby Bowden. In fact, my dad grew up with Coach Bowden and played football with him at Woodlawn HS and Howard College (now Samford University in B'ham, AL).

    Yes, coach Bowden asked for the game to be played in Florida. However, there are two bowls in Florida in which the ACC has tie-ins. The Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, I agree would have been a more appropriate setting.

    However, the Gator Bowl, even before Bowden announced his retirement, wanted Florida State. Why? ACC fans have a reputation for failing to support their teams in the post-season. I would be surprised if Ga. Tech-Iowa packs the Orange Bowl. Look at ACC Championship attendance over the past several years. Jacksonville gave up the game due to lack of interest in the 2006-2008 games. Fans would not travel to see teams play for a championship!

    We could debate as to why, but my guess is that outside Florida and Blacksburg, Va., basketball has first priority in hearts of ACC fans, which is fine. However, the Gator Bowl wants to make money, like any other bowl. If ACC fans refuse to travel, look for things like this to continue to occur.

    Furthermore, regardless of what folks say about Bowden, he is more selfless than many want to acknowledge. His persona on TV is the same toward his friends and those who are close to him. He regards the child who wants his autograph with the same respect he would give to a prized-recruit. He is one of the most "accessible" celebrities in the United States, and understands his role as a celebrity, and embraces it (unlike Tiger Woods or some of our others who refuse to be responsible for their character. I can even think of numerous US Presidents who were failures at this).

    I don't believe that Coach Bowden is perfect. I am sure that he has coached past his prime in pursuit of Paterno's record (and the same is true for Paterno. If Bryant's health had allowed him – he died a month after retiring – he would have continued to coach). However, the ACC could have said "no" to Bowden's "request." The Champs Sports Bowl could have chosen Florida State. Or, the ACC could have worked to send Florida State to Nashville or Charlotte (an hour from my house!). In any case, the Gator Bowl had the opportunity to put on a show, which is all the Bowl games are, and they took advantage of the opportunity. They acted within their contractual agreements with the ACC and Big East to do so, and it's a done deal.

    For a legend's retirement to be so sloppily handled by Florida State University, as well as events over the past few years leading up to this, I am excited that Coach Bowden can leave from the game in Florida. I am looking forward to cheering one last time for the Seminoles as Coach goes for #389!

    Blessings for a joyous Advent!

  2. Just a note: the 2008 ACC Championship was the first in Tampa. However, it was poorly attended by BC and Va. Tech fans.

  3. Tim-
    I'm a fan of the Coach Bowden too. That's why this seems out of character to me.
    Indeed the Gator Bowl did what was within their rights and will make a lot of money. I look forward to watching the game.
    But having this farewell on this stage goes come at a price. That's all I was noting.
    One challenge to attendance by ACC schools and others (aside from ticket prices and other travel costs) is that big bowls are now played after New Year's Day. I'd likely go to the Orange Bowl if not on a week night when work and school are back in swing.
    But then, TV rules. But it was nice back when the football on New Year's break was the best all year.

  4. John,

    Fair enough. However, Bowden has given a lot more than he has gotten. Personally, I would have loved to have seen his last game in the Papa Johns Bowl in Birmingham, but the bowl dropped the ACC in favor of the SEC before the season. God bless!

  5. Please pardon the personal promotion here, but click back over to my blog cause I got an exquisite link to a related topic coming out of last week from an urbane site on Tebow's Verses and Tears.
    It's worth the click over.
    And JP, with good humor here, I guess unless you go down to Tallahasse and have a prayer meeting with Doug Dortch, there went Bobby's end of the year contribution to Baps Today this Holiday Season.
    Marney had a thought I may share later. (insert smilie emoticon)

  6. Fox- It could be worse than that. BT editor emeritus Jack Harwell (with whom I spoke today about another matter) shared the infield at Howard/Samford with Bobby back in the day.
    But hear me out: I like Bobby!!

  7. I think Harwell told me one time Randall Lolley was on that team as well.
    But I could be mistaken.
    If you see Harwell again soon, tell him I liked his piece on Billy Graham and nostalgia; even so Christian Century review of Steven Miller's book on Nixon, Graham, Race and Rise of Southern GOP is must read for Harwell, if not the book itself.
    I have heard the Samford Library has a copy and I wouldn't be surprised if Mercer as well.
    Pardon me for going on, but Harwell will want to know Yaz's grandson is not pitching for Vandy, if it hasn't already registered with him; And Sabbath Creek by Georgia author Judson Mitcham is a sweet "Sounder" like read South Georgia tribute to Satchel Paige.
    In time the both of you will thank me for everything I said here. (insert smilie emoticon)

  8. Yaz gson NOW pitching; pardon the typo.

  9. You're right. Jack has told me that he Bobby Bowden and Randall Lolley covered third, short and second for Howard. The first baseman became an evangelist, I believe. Can't recall his name. Will ask Jack.

  10. Just wanted to add that two things:

    1. Florida State is not getting an opponent that will be an easy win. West Virginia is playing good football as of late and has a stellar running back chompin' at the bit to run on one of the worst defenses in college football.

    2. Still love Baptists Today and the work that you do!

    God bless!

  11. Thanks, Tim. Appreciate your good feedback to my blogging madness. If you agreed with everything I write I'd worry about you.
    Indeed the FSU-WVU match-up should be good. Seminoles will be up for the coach.
    Think he'd do a Q&A with me for BT in his retirement?

  12. John,

    To be honest with you, I think it would be a good piece for the magazine…I doubt he reads the blogs 🙂

    Well, I do agree with most of what you write…but please no worries! God bless!

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