Bobby Bowden, the folksy Hall of Fame coach who won 377 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 that his father died at home in Tallahassee, Florida, surrounded by family early Sunday morning.
“It was truly peaceful,” Terry Bowden said in a text message to AP.
Bobby Bowden announced on July 21 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.”
Bowden was beloved by Florida State fans, respected by his peers and throughout his life was one of the most accessible stars in college football. His home number was listed in the Tallahassee phone book for years.
Bowden piled up 377 wins during his 40 years as a major college coach with Southern charm and wit, 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. Florida State was a force during his 34 seasons as coach, winning 12 Atlantic Coast Conference championships and national titles in 1993 and 1999.
“Florida State University has lost a legend in the passing of Bobby Bowden,” university President John Thrasher said in a statement. “Coach Bowden built a football dynasty and raised the national profile of Florida State University, and he did it with class and a sense of humor.”
Bowden retired following the 2009 season with a Gator Bowl win over West Virginia in Florida State’s 28th straight postseason appearance, which 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 ’07 involving 61 athletes.
Still, only Penn State’s Joe Paterno is credited with winning more games (409) as a major college football coach. Bowden’s win total (377) ranks fourth across all divisions in college football history.
Bowden won the national championship in 1993 with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Charlie Ward and again in 1999 with his second Heisman winner, quarterback Chris Weinke, and All-American receiver Peter Warrick.
“Bobby Bowden has meant everything to Florida State athletics and so much to college football in general,” Florida State athletic director David Coburn said. “He is a part of the heart and soul of FSU, but it goes beyond even that — he is a big part of the history of the game.”
Born November 8, 1929, in Birmingham, Alabama, Robert Cleckler Bowden overcame rheumatic fever as a child to quarterback Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, then attended Alabama for a semester before transferring back to his hometown Howard University, where he started at quarterback.
Bowden built the Florida State program by scheduling the toughest opponents he could find, and he’d play them anywhere, usually at their stadium. He was dubbed “King of the Road” in 1981 after playing consecutive road games at Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and LSU — and winning three of the five.
Through Bowden’s career, Florida State won games in many of the nation’s toughest stadiums, including at Michigan, Southern California, and, of course, rivals Florida and Miami. In 1987, his team crushed Big Ten champion Michigan State 31-3 at East Lansing and whipped Southeastern Conference champion Auburn on its home field, 34-6.
Florida State said funeral arrangements for Bowden were pending.
Bowden is survived by his wife Ann; sons Terry, Tommy, Jeff, and Steve; and daughters Robyn Hines and Ginger Madden.
He married child his childhood sweetheart, Ann, and they stayed together for 72 years.
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