Dick Vitale Gala | At 83, Bobby Bowden has no regrets, still feisty

adell@bradenton.comMay 15, 2013 

Bobby Bowden is not sure the new college football playoff is a good thing, but he is certain he doesn't want to be on the selection committee.

"All my enemies are dead. I don't need to make new ones at my age," says the 83-year-old icon, who put the Florida State football program on the map.

Bowden was Tallahassee's most popular resident for nearly three decades until his Seminoles started to falter and some starting calling for his scalp.

"Coaching is fun when you win. You never miss the losing," he says.

Time has healed Bowden's wounds over his forced departure from FSU four years ago, and he is proof you never lose your gift of gab. It helps that his days are filled with speaking engagements and golf.

"People say I play golf, but really what I do is hit the ball," the hall of fame coach says.

He will make a big hit as one of three honored guests Friday at the Dick Vitale Gala at the Sarasota Ritz-Carlton. The gala caps off the Jimmy V Foundation drive to raise funds for pediatric cancer research.

"I had prostate cancer about seven years ago, and my sister (Marion Gamble) died at 58 from it (cancer)," he says.

Bowden was the national representative for prostate cancer and continues to urge men to get tested early, noting how it saved his life without having to undergo radiation or chemotherapy.

In his twilight years,

Bowden is going through a rebirth of sorts. He will attend an FSU game this season for the first time since his forced retirement. He wanted one more season and made it known he was pushed out.

"They invited me to go back and honor me and our '93 national championship team. I am not angry about how it ended. It's water under the bridge now," says Bowden, who became FSU's head coach in 1976, taking over a program that had won only four games the previous three years.

Bowden turned FSU into a household word.

He is not so sure the college football playoffs, which begin in 2014, is a good idea. A selection committee will pick the four teams to compete, and there is talk about putting retired coaches in that group.

"I hope they don't mess it up and figure out a way to do it right. I don't want to do it. It's a lot of responsibility, and you are going to make enemies," Bowden says. "I liked the way we did it before with the voting, but maybe I am old-fashioned."

Bowden tries to enjoy life these days and stay out of controversies. But there are certain things that will stick in his craw until he takes his final breath.

He still isn't happy about how the NCAA took away 12 of his victories for what the organization said was the result of a cheating scandal that affected multiple programs at the school.

To add salt to the wound, the NCAA won't count the 22 games he won at South Georgia College, which would've given him 411 career victories. Instead, the NCAA gives him 377, which put him ahead of Joe Paterno after the organizations took 111 victories away from the late Penn State coach because of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

"I never understood how you can take away games you've won. We did win those games, didn't we?" he says. "I hated to see what they did to Joe. He was a good friend of mine. The games I won I won. In my mind, they can never take them away."

Bowden doesn't appear to have any regrets, but there have been disappointments. He likes the decision made this week for FSU and USF to play a home-and-home series, but can't forget the Bulls beat his Noles up in Tallahassee the first time they met. The game drew 83,524 fans at Doak Campbell and 69,383 fans at Raymond James Stadium.

"They beat me, and it probably cost me my job or sure didn't do anything good for me. But anytime Florida schools play each other, it's a rivalry and this can be a really good one," Bowden says.

One thing Bowden likely won't forget is the scandal that erupted when Southeast High's nationally heralded quarterback, Adrian McPherson, went up there under a bevy of fanfare and never saw his career unfold due to non-football issues.

"He was one of the best quarterbacks I ever had. It is so sad what happened," Bowden says.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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