Legendary Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden dies at 91

Bobby Bowden
Posted at 1:08 PM, Aug 09, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State University confirmed that legendary football coach Bobby Bowden passed away at 5:08 a.m. Sunday, "at home surrounded by his wife and six children."

Arrangements have been announced, with the first service beginning Friday when Bowden will be Lie in Honor in the Capitol rotunda, which is slated to begin at 10 a.m. local time.

Bowden will then Lie in Repose at the Moore Athletic Center from 2-7 p.m. This will be open to the public.

Coach Bowden's funeral, which will be open to the public, will be held Saturday at the Tucker Civic Center at the university, beginning at 11 a.m.

On Sunday, he will be laid to rest in a family-only service in Trussville, Alabama.

Bobby Bowden
Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden meets with the media following his last football practice at the practice fields, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009, in Tallahassee, Fla. Bowden, who is retiring, will coach his last game at the Gator Bowl against West Virginia on Jan. 1, 2010, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Coale)

Early football career

Robert Cleckler Bowden was born on November 8, 1929, in Birmingham, Alabama. He fulfilled his dream to play for the Crimson Tide, where he played quarterback his freshman year.

After leaving the University of Alabama to marry his high school sweetheart, Anne Estock, he transferred to Howard College, now known as Samford University, where he played football, baseball, and ran track.

Once he graduated, Bowden served as an assistant coach at Howard for two years before becoming the athletic director and head coach of football, baseball, and basketball at South Georgia College.

Bowden left South Georgia College in 1962 and spent a brief two-year stint at Florida State University (1963–65) as the wide receivers coach, followed by a three-year period at West Virginia University (1966–69) as the offensive coordinator.

Leaving with a 42–26 record from West Virginia, he took up the head coaching position at FSU in 1976.

lou Holtz, Bobby Bowden
FILE - In this Dec. 31, 1975 file photo, North Carolina State football coach Lou Holtz, left, congratulates West Virginia coach Bobby Bowden atop the shoulders of his players after West Virginia's 13-10 win in the Peach Bowl college football game in Atlanta. A person familiar with the decision says Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will retire after the Seminoles play in a bowl game. Bowden will retire as the second winningest coach in major-college football behind Penn State's Joe Paterno. The 80-year-old Bowden has won 388 games in 44 seasons as a head coach. (AP Photo/File)

Florida State University

When Bowden arrived in Tallahassee, the Seminoles had a 4–29 record over the previous three seasons, and the soon-to-be legend only planned on staying until a better job came around.

According to Britannica, he started his tenure at Florida State with a 5–6 record -- the only losing record he posted as the team’s head coach.

In 1982, the Seminoles got their first invite to the Gator Bowl, and in 1993, the team clinched its first national championship win and claimed the Associated Press and Coaches Poll National Title.

Bobby Bowden
Florida State University head football coach Bobby Bowden receives a congratulatory hug after FSU defeated Nebraska 18-16 in the Orange Bowl in Miami, Jan. 1, 1994. Bowden is going for his first national college football championship. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)

Bowden repeated the feat in 1999 with an undefeated team to clinch a BCS National Championship. By then, the Seminoles had become the first college football team in history to be named number one in the Associated Press College Football Poll every week of the preseason and postseason.

From 1987 to 2000, the Seminoles finished every season with at least 10 wins and won 12 Atlantic Coast Conference championships since FSU joined the conference in 1991.

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, right, shakes hands with his father, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, before the start of their game Saturday, Oct. 23, 1999, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson S.C. Tommy Bowden made the Top 10 sports stories in his first year as head coach at Clemson with his team headed to the Peach Bowl. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

Bowden was also named National Coach of the Year six times and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

After a difficult 2009 season and amid questioning fans, Bowden stepped down just weeks after his 80th birthday. A few weeks after his retirement, FSU was forced to vacate 12 football victories from the 2006 and 2007 seasons after the program was found guilty of academic fraud.

He was allowed to make his final coaching appearance in the 2010 Gator Bowl game on January 1, 2010, with a 33–21 victory over his former program, West Virginia.

Bobby Bowden
Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, top, is carried off the field on the shoulders of his players following their 33-21 win over West Virginia at the Gator Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Jan. 1, 2010, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Coale)

Bowden finished his non-junior-college coaching career with 377 wins.

After the Seminoles

After his retirement, Bowden stayed in the Capital City. Throughout that time, Bowden spent much of his life either on the golf course, making appearances throughout the country, or with his wife, Anne.

Bowden always stayed connected with the Seminoles, often making appearances at games.

In July 2021, Bowden's son Terry announced that his father had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

An outpouring of love, support, and words of admiration followed this announcement from across the nation.

"I don't know if there's anybody who's ever done it with more grace, dignity or class on the sideline in college football in the history of this game and had the success he had winning and doing the things he does," said Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher at SEC media days earlier this month. "The impact he had on his coaches and the impact he had on his players and everybody who came in contact with him. He's as fine a man as there ever was, and he means the world to me, and it's a very sad day for me."

Fisher took over the Seminole program when Bowden retired in 2009 and said his career is because of the Bowden family.

Bobby Bowden, Ann Bowden, Forrest Conoly, Richard Coes, Clay Shiver
Former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, holding hands with his wife Ann, gives a thumbs up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Syracuse on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 in Tallahassee, Fla. The Florida State 1993 national championship team was honored before the game, including Forrest Conoly, back left, Richard Coes, between the Bowdens, and Clay Shiver, right. Florida State beat Syracuse 59-3. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

Bowden is survived by his wife Anne, their six children, and 21 grandchildren.

This story was first reported by our Scripps sister station WTXL.