Veteran Florida State coach aims to stay ahead of JoePa

By Brent Kallestad

PINEHURST, N.C. – Bobby Bowden said he’d just as soon coach until he dies.

The longtime Florida State coach, who turns 78 in November, owns 366 wins, three more than Penn State’s Joe Paterno.

“I just as soon die on the football field as die on the beach,” Bowden said Monday at the Atlantic Coast Conference football kickoff. “If I retired, what else have I got to look forward to other than dying?” asked college football’s best known great-grandfather. “I can’t imagine me being retired.”

Neither can Bowden’s 53-year-old son, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden.

“I talk more about retirement than he does,” he said. “He doesn’t talk about it.”

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And while Bobby Bowden doesn’t use a computer or even carry his cell phone regularly, he is still in tune with his players.

“Sometimes he throws in some of those 1975 sayings,” defensive tackle Andre Fluellen said. “But he knows the lingo. He’s a little bit hip.”

Bowden has coached teams to a pair of national titles along with two Heisman Trophy winners and has the most wins in major college history along with a dozen ACC championships.

Bowden said he’d like to get to 400 victories and hopes to stay ahead of the 80-year-old Paterno.

“I’d hate to come out second, but it could happen,” said Bowden, whose concessions to his advancing age include a brief daily nap along with a baby aspirin and pills to control his blood cholesterol and diabetes.

Bowden also has the enviable situation of having the support of Florida State’s president, T.K. Wetherell, who was a wide receiver under Bowden in the mid-1960’s when the coach was then an assistant at the school.

Bowden said Monday he and Paterno share the same attitude about coaching into their 80s.

“Joe and I both feel we can help these young men,” Bowden said. “That plays as big a role in this as anything. We think we can help them learn some things in life.”

And if old age is slowing Bowden at all, the media that covers the Seminoles believes he’ll have the team playing in the ACC title game in December despite last year’s 7-6 record, the poorest in 30 years at Florida State.

“I’m really surprised,” Bowden said. “Usually on these things you base it on what happened last year. We were not very successful last year.”

And, Bowden said, losing is what really ages him.

“I realize I have to win enough games,” he said.