Champs Bowl excites Florida State Seminoles coach

Florida State will make a short drive to Orlando for the Champs Sports Bowl and a first-time matchup with Wisconsin on Dec. 27. But for Bobby Bowden, the trip takes him for a far longer ride:

Down memory lane all the way back to his second year as the Seminoles' coach, 1977, when his team reached the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, which at the time was a major accomplishment.

"That will always be one of my fondest bowls," he said Sunday evening.

Back then, his Seminoles had rebounded from a 5-6 season to go 9-2 in the regular season and get to a bowl for the first time since 1971. They routed Texas Tech to end nationally ranked.

"I remember all that, (but) the main thing I can remember is the visit," he said, calling Orlando one of the most family-friendly cities in the United States or even the world. He got the chance to go to Disney World for, he believes, the first time during that trip.

"Mickey Mouse and I are about the same age. I don't know if you knew that," said Bowden, 79, laughing.

But Bowden also said he likes the pairing with a school neither he nor FSU has faced. In fact, this affords a rare Big Ten matchup and the first since the '06 Orange Bowl against Penn State, a 26-23 loss in triple overtime.

"I like the contrast. I like the North vs. the South contrast," he said. "That's better than playing somebody from Mississippi or Louisiana. I think it'll be a very interesting game."

Will it be for the fans?

Despite a 45-15 loss at home to Florida in its regular-season finale, FSU seemed a safe bet for the Gator Bowl. But officials with that game, hoping to lure more fans or at least more fans who would fill hotel rooms and create more of an economic impact for Jacksonville, opted for Clemson.

That decision, seen as a snub by some fans, meant the Seminoles wouldn't appear in a New Year's Day game for the third straight year. FSU met UCLA in the Emerald Bowl on Dec. 27, 2006, then Kentucky in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31.

Not that the Champs organizers are complaining.

"We're excited largely because Florida State's a very good football team," bowl executive director Steve Hogan said. "They're very deserving, and to have a shot at that team alongside North Carolina and Boston College … were huge opportunities for us.

"But Florida State, we have nothing but the utmost respect for the program. And Coach Bowden is a special person, and the chance to play it against a Big Ten team he hadn't been able to face before was really a great opportunity."

fast facts

Champs Sports Bowl

Who: Wisconsin (7-5) vs. Florida State (8-4)

When/where: 4:30 p.m. Dec. 27; Citrus Bowl, Orlando

TV: ESPN

Tickets: $60; Seminoles.com, Ticketmaster.com

Champs Bowl excites Florida State Seminoles coach 12/07/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 12, 2008 12:47pm]

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