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Bobby Bowden talks Jimbo Fisher, current state of college football

Bobby Bowden signs helmets before speaking at Seffner Christian Academy in Seffner on Thursday, April 11, 2013. (Eve Edelheit, Times)
Published May 13, 2016

Florida State legend Bobby Bowden said when he retired from coaching that he didn't want to retire from life.

Seven years after his last game for the Seminoles, Bowden is still going strong, with plenty of golf and as many as five speaking engagements a week. Bowden, 86, will be in Hillsborough County on Saturday to address a Christian Men United conference at the Plant City Church of God.

In advance of Saturday's speech, the Tampa Bay Times caught up with the two-time national championship coach:

What's impressed you most about the job Jimbo Fisher has done at FSU?

Jimbo had a very difficult job coming into a school where the coach before him had been there for 34 years. It's just hard to follow somebody like Vince Dooley or Bear Bryant — coaches that have been at one place for so long. The amazing thing is what he's been able to do under those circumstances. … I don't know that anybody in the country other than maybe (Nick) Saban has been more successful the last five years than Jimbo. He's got a national championship, conference championships, put boys in the pros. I don't know that anybody could have done a better job than what he's done at Florida State.

What's your relationship like with him?

When I left, I left. I felt like it would not be wise for me to hang around a place I had coached that long and be looking over somebody's shoulder. I purposefully stayed away.

You mentioned Saban. How does what he has done at Alabama compare to what you did at FSU or what Bear Bryant did or Joe Paterno?

He's been there nine or 10 years. What he has done in those 10 years, I don't know if anybody can surpass. … The question keeps coming up, "Who's the best coach: Bear Bryant or Nick Saban?" They ask me. Let it play on out. Coach Bryant's gone. He can't defend himself. He's already got his record out there. Saban's not through yet. Let's let him get through and then say who's best.

Do you follow what Jim Harbaugh has done up at Michigan? What's your reaction?

He's been very exciting. I enjoy reading about him and seeing what all he's doing. He has added a lot of excitement to college football.

You know (former FSU assistant) Mark Richt well. How do you think he'll do at Miami?

I think he'll do well, if he can keep those Miami boys and those boys from down in that part of the state to go to Miami again. It's whoever's going to get the best players. There's plenty of them down in Miami.

Big picture, how has the game changed since you left?

It's changed in style, but it's still blocking and tackling and throwing and catching. I think college football right now is as exciting as it has ever been. I don't like what goes on off the field, but I don't like what goes on off the field in our society, either. But on the field, people like to see a lot of scoring. They don't like those low-scoring ball games. Right now, offenses are ahead of the defenses, and scoring a lot of points.

What's your favorite memory of your time at FSU?

My favorite year was my second year there (1977). My first year — remember, I took a job that had been 1-10. … My first year we had a losing record. We were 5-6. My second year, we won 10 ball games, went to a bowl, won the bowl, got nationally ranked and beat Florida for the first time in 10 years. That was probably my favorite year.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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