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FSU legend Bobby Bowden diagnosed with terminal condition

The two-time national champion said he’s “at peace” with the diagnosis.
Bobby Bowden is one of the iconic figures in Florida sports history.
Bobby Bowden is one of the iconic figures in Florida sports history. [ Tampa Bay Times (2010) ]
Published Jul. 21, 2021
Updated Jul. 21, 2021

Florida State legend Bobby Bowden has been diagnosed with a terminal medical condition, his family said Wednesday.

“I’ve always tried to serve God’s purpose for my life, on and off the field, and I am prepared for what is to come,” Bowden said in a statement. “My wife Ann and our family have been life’s greatest blessing.

“I am at peace.”

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that the 91-year-old former coach’s health has declined since he tested positive for coronavirus last fall.

Related: We ranked all 78 Florida college football games from worst to first

Bowden remains one of the most iconic sports figures in state history and a giant in college football after building the Seminoles from a no-name program into a national powerhouse.

For 14 consecutive years from 1987-2000, Bowden’s Seminoles won at least 10 games and finished in the top five of the AP Poll. Not even Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide can match that streak. The highlights, of course, were FSU’s first national championships, in 1993 and ’99.

The NCAA recognizes Bowden with 377 wins, second in Division I-A history to Penn State’s Joe Paterno.

“He is a part of the heart and soul of FSU, but it goes beyond even that — he is a big part of the history of the game,” FSU athletic director David Coburn said in a statement. “Anyone who has had the opportunity to be around Coach Bowden knows what it is like to know a person who has his priorities in the right order, who loves life and values integrity and honor.”

Bowden coached some of the best players this state has ever seen over his 34 years at FSU (1976-2009). Deion Sanders. Derrick Brooks. Peter Warrick. Heisman Trophy winners Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke.

His coaching tree includes Miami’s Manny Diaz, former Miami/Georgia coach Mark Richt and his FSU successor, Jimbo Fisher (now at Texas A&M).

“He’s meant everything to me,” Fisher said Wednesday. “... He’s one of the great human beings that’s ever coached and one of the great coaches that’s ever coached.”

Jimbo Fisher was an assistant under Bobby Bowden before taking over the Seminoles and leading them to a national title.
Jimbo Fisher was an assistant under Bobby Bowden before taking over the Seminoles and leading them to a national title. [ WILL VRAGOVIC | Times (2008) ]

FSU president John Thrasher said he and his wife, Jean, were saddened by the news about one of transformative figures in school history.

“Coach Bowden built a football dynasty and raised the national profile of Florida State University, and he did it with dignity, class and a sense of humor,” Thrasher said in a statement.

“Although his accomplishments on the field are unmatched, his legacy will go far beyond football. His faith and family have always come first, and he is an incredible role model for his players and fans alike. He is beloved by the FSU family.”

And beyond.

News of Bowden’s diagnosis quickly spread Wednesday to Hoover, Ala., the site of SEC media days. Mississippi State coach Mike Leach never worked for Bowden but admired him from afar — first as a kid who enjoyed watching the ‘Noles throw the ball around, then as a Valdosta State assistant who would drive down to Tallahassee to watch practice.

“Coach Bowden has been an example to all of us,” Leach said. “... He’s just a tremendous guy, and I don’t think the game would be the same without him.”

Related: Will Alabama slip this year? Gators, Miami will decide that.

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