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FSU: Looking ahead

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000


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TALLAHASSEE -- The day after Florida State coach Bobby Bowden retires, the once humble playing field he transformed into one of college football's most venerable of grounds will bear his name.

But the 70-year-old, who is entering his silver anniversary in Tallahassee and 34th overall, isn't worried about what he will say or wear when that day finally, inevitably comes.

"The only thing I think about then is who's going to sing at my funeral and what kind of flowers they're going to put on my grave," Bowden said.

"I've always expressed it that one day my health will be where I don't want to go out on the field today. That and losing are the only things that would deter me. If I start losing, I'm not going to go through that. That's for young people. I can't stand it."

Not that he's worried about that now.

He plans to keep going and going, which isn't good news for opponents. As long as he's around, the Seminoles' unprecedented winning streak of 10-win seasons and Top 4 finishes figure to keep going and going.

"I don't know if you'll ever catch Florida State until my father retires," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "He's probably got a couple more years in him. His contract's for (four more years); I think he'll stay three. Then, I think us, Michigan, Nebraska, the rest of us can start closing the gap."

That's not merely a son's admiration. That's not a knock on Bowden's successor, who some speculate might be Tommy Bowden. That's an acknowledgment of the drawing power of a proven winner like his father.

"I think a bunch of players choose him," the younger Bowden said.

Papa Bowden, in the closest he'll come to peeking at FSU without him, concedes that programs historically slump when they lose a longtime, successful coach.

It happened to Alabama after Bear.

It happened to Southern California after McKay.

It happened to Oklahoma after Switzer.

"It's kind of hard for someone to step in, I don't care who it is," the elder Bowden said.

Not that he's worried about that now.

"All I know is I have the same desire right now that I had last year and, as best as I can remember, I had 10 years ago and, as best as I can remember, 20 years ago," Bowden said. "The butterflies begin to come. Anxiety begins to set in. I can't wait to get started, I can't wait to look at the players, I can't wait to look at film. That just hasn't gone yet. Retiring, for some reason, has never crossed my mind."

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