Legendary Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden has been diagnosed with a terminal medical condition, that his son, Terry, said Thursday is pancreatic cancer. Bowden, 91, coached the Seminoles from 1976-2009, building the program into a national power by amassing a 304-97-4 record over that span. He won 12 ACC titles and two national championships. FSU’s national titles under Bowden came in 1993 and 1999.
“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,” Bobby Bowden said in a statement to the Tallahassee Democrat. “My wife Ann and our family have been life’s greatest blessing.
“I am at peace.”
Terry Bowden, who is the coach at Louisiana-Monroe, said that with pancreatic cancer, “you’re probably talking months, not years, so we know that.”
“I would plead that all people would respect the fact he needs to rest when he’s up,” Terry said, speaking at Sun Belt Media Days as he enters his first year as coach of Louisiana-Monroe. “He doesn’t need a lot of phone calls, or a lot of people talking on the phone. You know my dad; he has never turned down an interview in his life. He’ll be on his deathbed [doing] an interview the last minute he does it. But, that’s Bobby Bowden.”
An Alabama native, Bowden played at Howard (now Samford) and began his coaching career there before landing on staff at West Virginia in 1966, eventually rising to become the Mountaineers’ coach in 1970. After six seasons in that role, he assumed the job at FSU and built the program into one of the best in college football.
“Jean and I are deeply saddened about the news on our friend, the legendary Bobby Bowden, and we extend our thoughts and prayers to Bobby, Ann and the entire Bowden family,” Florida State president John Thrasher said in a statement. “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. 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.”
Bowden produced an extensive coaching tree during his career that included three of his sons. Tommy Bowden worked as the head coach at Tulane and Clemson, while Terry famously led Auburn to an 11-0 record in the 1993 season while the Tigers were on NCAA probation. Jeff Bowden also enjoyed a lengthy coaching career that included more than a decade spent on staff with his father at FSU where has served as offensive coordinator.
Bowden still resides in Tallahassee, Florida, and fought through a COVID-19 diagnosis last year that resulted in his hospitalization. His bout with the coronavirus followed other recent hospitalizations for a calf infection and pneumonia.