Chris Dufresne: On Bobby Bowden, what happens next and ... Napoleon?

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Bobby Bowden’s retirement isn’t an hour old and I miss him already.

Not that he didn’t need to go, at age 80, after his second 6-6 season since 2006. It would have been nice to script a better ending, but Florida obviously held options on those exclusive rights.

Florida State fans who wanted Bowden gone now have to ask what the program will be without him, because it wasn’t much before him.

The irony is that the man who loved to talk went out with a one-paragraph statement:


‘We’ve got one more game and I look forward to spending these next few weeks as the head football coach,’ Bowden said.

That’s it?

Bowden won 388 games in 44 years, the last 34 of those years at Florida State. He won two national titles and went 14 straight years, ending in 2000, with at least 10 wins and a top five finish in the AP poll. Let’s see someone do that again.

More than anything, though, Bowden was an icon -- the last of his kind. He was as great as Joe Paterno, except funnier. Bowden used his sense of humor and preacher man’s delivery to cajole players, boosters and writers. He could make armed robbery involving one of his players sound like a parking ticket.

My fondest Bowden memory: It was December 2006, and Florida State had just finished 6-6 and was scheduled to play UCLA in the Emerald Bowl.

I set up an interview and was walking into Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee just as Bowden was rushing out. He stiffed me on an interview because he had to hop on a plane to recruit Jimbo Fisher, the offense coordinator who would eventually be named Bowden’s successor.

Bowden said he’d give me plenty of time if I wanted to stay an extra day, which I did.

In his office the next day, he regaled me with stories. He was always curious about what was going on with USC and spoke of the one dream he never fulfilled -- taking a team to the Rose Bowl. Bowden grew up in Birmingham as a huge Alabama fan, and he could name the entire roster of the 1945 team that defeated USC in the Rose Bowl of 1947. A year later, the Big Ten and what is now the Pac-10 entered a contract that prevented outsiders from playing in the game until the BCS was formed in 1998.

Bowden loved military history and had plenty of books on the subject. I started asking him about his favorite generals. He leaned back in his chair, rubbed his head and started spouting the exploits of George Patton, Douglas MacArthur and German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

But Bowden said his favorite general was Napoleon.

I hesitated before reminding him that things didn’t end very well for Napoleon -- that he got run out of town after a few bad campaigns, namely Waterloo.

Without missing a beat, Bowden said, ‘Yeah, he played in the Emerald Bowl too.’

-- Chris Dufresne