Jack Hairston: Bowden deserves respect, even Fuller's

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

In my life of almost eight decades, I've never previously written to The Gainesville Sun. However, Jake Fuller's editorial cartoon of Oct. 23 triggered this response.

The cartoon ridiculing Bobby Bowden was in the poorest taste I've seen in a long time. If ever a football coach deserved respectful treatment it's Bowden.

He has given FSU football success like the school and its supporters had no right to expect. FSU had been the stepchild of North Florida collegiate football almost annually from its first year in the sport (1947) through 1975. Bowden arrived in '76 and took over a program that was far behind the University of Florida in prestige, alumni-fan support and tradition.

The UF-FSU series was heavily one-sided in UF's favor. FSU had won twice, UF 15 and there had been one tie. Florida had beaten FSU eight straight years. There was no reason for FSU fans to even hope for the success that was in the Seminoles' future.

Bowden won four of his first five games against the Gators. Since his arrival, FSU has won more than half the meetings with the Gators. His record in that series is 17-15-1 - 13-8-1 over the last 20 years, including two Sugar Bowl meetings, which the teams split.

Since the arrival of Steve Spurrier as UF coach in 1990, the Gators have enjoyed their greatest success in history, including two national championships, under Spurrier in '96 and Urban Meyer in 2006. During that span Bowden's record against the Gators is 10-8-1. Bowden and the Seminoles have also won two national championships, his career victory total is the highest in college football history and his record against Spurrier is 8-5-1.

During my long career as a sports writer, I was most closely associated with Gator coaches, players and teams, but that doesn't prevent me from thinking Bowden is one of the greatest coaches of all times. He also has great character and is a great family man.

It shouldn't be surprising that FSU's recruiting has fallen off the last few years with UF's Urban Meyer, 35 years younger than Bowden, offering recruits a brighter future at UF than FSU.

Bowden will turn 78 this month, and it seems to me that everyone should be willing for him to coach the Seminoles as long as he wants. I asked Bowden several years ago how long he planned to coach, and he said as long as he enjoyed his job. After the howls of discontent from FSU fans the last two years, I wouldn't be surprised if he's had as much enjoyment as he can stand and will retire after this season. He will be missed.

Jack Hairston is the former sports editor for The Gainesville Sun.

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