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Give the man his due

Bowden underrated despite years of success

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Sunday January 02, 2000 08:06 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- Florida State's Bobby Bowden is the grand patriarch of college football coaches. He's a likeable teddy bear who is a great quote machine, but Bowden doesn't get enough credit for what he really is -- one heck of a coach.

We see Florida State's success year after year and figure it must be the system, not the man. But we seem to forget who put the system in place. Before Bowden arrived from West Virginia in 1976, Florida State was a joke. The Seminoles were 3-8, 1-10 and 0-11 in the three years prior to Bowden's arrival, and were far from the football factory they are now.

"We had to start from the bottom and scrap everything," Bowden said. "They didn't know what winning was when I first came here. It was a long building process, but it was something I was committed to doing."

What Bowden has done in Tallahassee is remarkable. A 229-53-4 record, including 10 or more wins over the last 12 years, during which Florida State has finished the season ranked in the top four. Such success is rare.

Yet, since Bowden has only won one national championship (1993) and has never gone undefeated, his success is overshadowed by his failures. Before he won his first title, Bowden was labeled as a coach who couldn't win the big game.

"It's funny because the year we won it they were saying the same thing about me and [Nebraska coach] Tom Osborne," Bowden said. "I knew one of us had to get it off our backs and I was glad it was me. But then he goes off and wins three of the next four."

In a year with no truly great teams in college football, Bowden has done a tremendous job in leading the Seminoles back to the title game. The Seminoles have a chance to be a wire-to-wire No. 1 team and give Bowden his undefeated season. Whatever happens, let's finally give the 70-year-old coach his props.

 
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"Going undefeated would be pretty special because it's something that's eluded me all these years. Terry coaches one year and gets it; Tommy goes 11-0 in his second season. I've been coaching 46 doggone years and I still haven't done it."
—Florida State coach Bobby Bowden

Beamer's gut feeling

Talk about a bold prediction. Virginia Tech deep snapper Shane Beamer, the son of the Hokies' coach, says his father had an inkling that Tech could go undefeated while on a family vacation this summer. The coach, normally reserved and devoid of predictions, shocked even his own son.

"We were down in Atlanta this summer," Shane Beamer said. "We were driving some place and he just said, 'You know, I think we've got a great, great chance to go undefeated this year.' And I kinda knew it, but to hear him say it ... Whoa!"

Seminoles' forgotten receiver

With all the attention Peter Warrick receives on and off the field, it's easy to forget about Florida State wide receiver Ron Dugans. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior has quietly had an outstanding season as the Seminoles' No. 2 receiver, catching 43 passes for 644 yards and three touchdowns. And with Warrick likely to draw double coverage in Tuesday's national championship game, Dugans could be the X factor.

"I'm a competitor and, like anyone else, I want the ball when the game's on the line," Dugans said. "I understand that Pete is our No. 1 guy, but we have a lot of receivers on this team that can make plays."

Dugans was highly recruited coming out of Tallahassee's Florida A&M High, but he chose Florida State because he wanted to win a national title. "I could have gone to a lot of different places and been the No. 1 guy," said Dugans, who wears No. 80 because of his idol, Jerry Rice. "I knew I would have to play behind a guy like Pete here, but winning's more important.

"I've shown that I can be a go-to guy, and I think I might be one of the most underrated players in the country."

Dumb question of the day

Q: To Virginia Tech players and coaches: "What would a national championship mean to your program?"

A: "What do you think?"


 
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