Ahead of the Curve
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Privately, Bobby Bowden is relieved.  He's relieved to be done with the whole darn coaching thing: the recruiting, the traveling, game-day hoopla, alumni and the media.

Not long after this bowl season ends he's gonna' wonder why he didn't retire sooner.  Eighty years old and millions in the bank, he shoulda' left Florida State ten years ago.

Maybe he was fixated on the career-victories record that he and Joe Paterno have been battling over in recent years.  What Bobby realized too late was that Paterno is like a dog with a bone: he never lets go, once he gets a lead.

Even without the record, Bowden still might be the greatest college football coach in history.  When he took on the Seminole project in 1976, Florida State had no big-time reputation (or AD budget) by which to entice top recruits.  He had to forge his own identity and would build FSU into a perennial powerhouse, winning national titles in 1993 (AP) and 1999 (BCS).

Bobby Bowden was the John McKay of the southeast.  The mixture of wit and football wisdom set them apart from most other college coaches who tend to take themselves too seriously.  Both men espoused the view that it was the athletes, not themselves, who won (and suffered losing) games.  And their players loved them for it.

The big business of major college coaching requires an abundance of energy.  And if you've seen Bowden interviewed recently it's clear he no longer has the verve & vigor needed to strategize for the championships that boosters and fans so greedily demand.

Change is difficult.  Sometimes we need a nudge, a push in the right direction.  In their eagerness to youth-enize the coaching position, the FSU Board of Regents may have done Bowden and his family a favor in forcing his retirement.

There are those famous sporting events (Ice Bowl / Ali - Frazier I); remarkable title runs (91 Duke / 68 Celtics) and impressive dynasties (96 Yankees / 84 Oilers).  But most often, the games, even the championships, are as routine and forgettable as your last oil change.

It is often the sport personalities that make a lasting impression.  Sometimes it's a single performance (Ruth's Called Shot / Emil Zatopek); Sometimes it's of the male-diva variety (Ochocinco); and sometimes they're likable characters (George Foreman / Mark Martin).

And in the college coaching ranks, where those colorful personalities are about as rare as a stingy 4th quarter defense, Bobby Bowden's cheerful persona will be greatly missed.

Steven Keys

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