Bobby Bowden, Longtime Florida State Coach, Dead at 91

He was one of the most successful college football coaches of all time

Bobby Bowden
Head coach Bobby Bowden of the Florida State University Seminoles looks on from the field before a college football game against the University of Pittsburgh Panthers at Pitt Stadium on October 17, 1981.
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Over the course of his long career at Florida State University and elsewhere, Bobby Bowden amassed an awe-inspiring number of wins as a coach. His career in coaching began in 1954; 22 years later, he took up the Florida State job, and remained a presence there until his retirement in 2009 — turning the school’s football program into a powerhouse along the way.

His longtime home announced his death today on Twitter. Bowden was 91 years old; according to a statement from his son Terry, he died at home in the presence of his family.

“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,” Florida State president John Thrasher said in a statement. “While he leaves an incredible legacy as one of the best football coaches in collegiate history, he also will be remembered for his great faith, his love of family and his mentorship of countless young people. He will be profoundly missed.”

As NPR’s Greg Allen noted, Bowden and Penn State coach Joe Paterno spent most of their careers neck and neck for the distinction of being the winningest coach in college football. Bowden finished with 375 career victories after the NCAA negated 14 wins due to academic cheating. That placed him second behind Paterno in the record books, with Bear Bryant finishing third.

Many of his former players and colleagues took to social media to pay tribute to Bowden, remembering him for his skill as a coach, his amiability and his religious faith. His was a long and complex career, and one that stood as an inspiration for many who encountered him.

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