SEFFNER — More than 200 Florida State University football fans and supporters of Seffner Christian Academy packed the gymnasium of the school to hear former Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden speak on matters of faith and life on Thursday night.
School administrator Roger Duncan arranged the event, the first of its kind at the school, in an effort to raise funds for a new academic building needed to allow the school to take on more students. Seffner Christian currently operates at capacity with more than 700 students in grades 6-12, but a new building would allow them a bit more freedom for expansion.
"We don't want to turn families away," Duncan said. "This event has attracted many people who may not have even known our school was here before. We want to share with them what's going on at our school and hopefully through this and other events like it, we can raise funds to be able to continue growing."
Tickets for the fundraiser cost $75, which included a three-course dinner and a number of silent auctions that offered autographed FSU football memorabilia, pictures and autographed copies of Bowden's book titled Called to Coach. A framed photo collage signed by the coach was auctioned off for $1,100.
As one of college football's most successful coaches, Bowden's name alone was enough to draw a crowd.
Tampa's Chuck Kinsey, 37, doesn't have kids enrolled at the school, but after hearing about the event from some friends, he jumped at the chance to hear the legendary coach speak.
"I'm a big FSU fan," Kinsey said. "I've always appreciated coach Bowden for his boldness and the fact that his faith is at the center of everything he does. I admired him for his work with the program at FSU and I really enjoyed his speech tonight."
Faith-driven yet lighthearted and often times comical, Bowden's speech ran the gamut of topics from success to death and everything in between. He shared personal stories and reflected on experiences he had as head coach of one of the nation's finest college football programs.
Bowden also reflected on the place of faith in school and shared genuine beliefs about what it can do for our society, finishing by recognizing the academy and the work being done at Seffner Christian.
"I didn't mean to get up here and preach," Bowden said. "I do it because I love the work you're doing here and I hope you never stop doing it. This is the type of school this nation was founded on."
Jimmy Aldridge, 38, of Plant City attended the school as a boy and has seen it change drastically over the years. He was pleased with Bowden as well as Duncan's idea to hold the event and is eager to see more like it.
"I thought the speech was really good considering I'm not an FSU fan," Aldridge said. "An event like this really puts the school's name out there. It can only do us good and I think the school's name deserves to be recognized because the atmosphere here is so much different than at a public school. They have to do more of them because the school will really benefit."
David Rice can be reached at [email protected]