Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Son of Eddie Robinson empathizes with Florida State Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, caught up in a firestorm about his future, confessed that last week's comeback win at North Carolina was a weight off of every Seminole's back.

Including his own.

"But what does that mean? Seven more days of peace?" he deadpanned.

Actually the schedule allows for a bit more relative serenity; the Seminoles (3-4, 1-3 ACC) snapped a three-game skid Oct. 22 in Chapel Hill and next play Saturday at home against North Carolina State (3-4, 0-3).

Still, his point is taken. When your team is struggling or failing to live up to the standard set during an era of unprecedented success, as is FSU, the coach is going to shoulder increasing criticism. And when you're about to turn 80, as Bowden will Nov. 8, the load is even heftier.

"It's predictable," he said. "Once you get a certain age, man, if you're not successful, then they're going to say, 'He's too old,' and, 'He's forgot everything.' … All you have to do is keep up with history.''

His old pal at Penn State, Joe Paterno, heard calls to retire when his teams strung together losing seasons in this decade. Then there's a case of another iconic coach in the South who defied every obstacle to put his school's program on the map and establish it as model, only to see the power brokers try to force him out when his team's fortunes fell. In a way, that happened.

That coach?

Grambling State's Eddie Robinson.

After consecutive losing seasons (and some minor NCAA trouble), Robinson agreed to return for just one more season, 1997, then step aside. He did. He was 78 at the time.

"Maybe something within him might have really been hurt, but he never said anything about it and I never heard him blame anybody about it," his son, Eddie Jr., said. "If he had those types of feelings, I guess he held that in.

"As a matter of fact, he would console me on it. … I used to kind of get upset about that but my father didn't. He always just told me, 'Everybody loves a winner.' "

And when the Tigers didn't win, his father's age suddenly became the reason du jour. Eddie Jr. said even when his father wasn't a card-carrying member of the AARP, critics would say he was "too old."

"The years he was getting older and we'd win, that would kind of hold them at bay, but you could still feel them looking for some excuse," he said.

After the 1996 team went 3-8, then-Louisiana Gov. Murphy James Foster lobbied for Robinson to get another season to go out on his terms and as a winner. His swan song ended with a 30-7 loss to Southern in the Bayou Classic at the New Orleans Superdome and a second straight 3-8 record. Following a postgame call from President Bill Clinton and a teary-eyed news conference, he walked away exuding his trademark gentility. He won 408 games during his 57-year career.

"He became a Grambling fan," Eddie Jr. said. "He and my mom (Doris) went to games and they hollered for the team. Sometimes he'd drive out there some evenings and sit in the car and watch them work out. But he never pushed himself on the university. If they asked him to do something, he would do it. If they didn't, he was just happy to be a fan."

Coach Robinson died in April 2007.

His son doesn't like, but understands, the recent treatment of Bowden. The chairman of FSU's Board of Trustees, Jim Smith, has called for Bowden to announce his resignation effective at the end of the season.

Many fans have written letters and e-mails to school president T.K. Wetherell and athletic director Randy Spetman urging them to show Bowden the door so the Jimbo Fisher era can begin in 2010 instead of a year later. (Fisher's contract states FSU must offer him the job by January 2011 or give him $5 million.) Other fans have voiced their support for Bowden to stay on as long as he wants, including Gov. Charlie Crist. For his part, Wetherell has said only that Bowden and his status will be evaluated at season's end.

"I think that they should give him all of his respect and let him go out the way he wants to. That's just my feeling," Eddie Robinson Jr. said. "My father thought a lot of Coach Bowden and the Robinson family thinks a lot of him. … I hope everything works out for him. Fans are great and they're the same everywhere, but they're messing around with a legend."

Son of Eddie Robinson empathizes with Florida State Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden 10/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 9:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pitching on no rest backfires for Erasmo Ramirez, Rays

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — After battling through a 61/2-hour affair Sunday in Minnesota that was the second-longest game in franchise history, Rays officials were quick to decide that even though Erasmo Ramirez had just worked the 15th and final inning, they would stick with him to start Monday's game in Texas.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers, comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Rangers game

    The Heater

    The Rays had good reason to have faith in RHP Erasmo Ramirez starting Monday after closing Sunday based on his resiliency, versatility and efficiency. But, for whatever reason, he just didn't pitch well and got knocked out in the third.

  3. Rays journal: Dugout bench becomes bed for Logan Morrison at end of long night

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays found creative ways to get through the physical and mental fatigue of the 6½ hours they spent playing — and ultimately winning — Sunday's game in Minnesota.

    Corey Dickerson drapes towels over an exhausted Logan Morrison in the dugout during the 15th inning of Sunday’s marathon victory.
  4. Rays at Rangers, 8:05 p.m. Tuesday, Arlington, Texas

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Rangers

    8:05, Globe Life Park, Arlington, Texas

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 2: Nick Martinez #22 of the Texas Rangers poses for a portrait during photo day at Surprise Stadium on March 2, 2015 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
  5. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]