When he arrived in Tallahassee in 1976, Bowden inherited a program so weak that school officials were thinking of folding it. He put Florida State on the map by putting his job on the line. His willingness to play any team, anywhere--his '81 squad played at Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Notre Dame, at Pitt and at LSU, winning three of those games--brought national recognition to his program. Bowden has earned the right to play on Saturday.
Sandwiched, as always, between burly state troopers, Bowden walks toward the locker room after the game, then suddenly turns around and strides the length of the field. The coach had forgotten to salute and thank the Seminoles band, as is his custom. After he has done so, the musicians serenade him with Happy Birthday. (He turned 75 three days earlier.) As they sing, Bowden's grin cuts the mist like a beacon, and it's difficult to begrudge him even this sloppy victory.
I am pleased, also, for Specialist Gilmore, now eight for eight with Florida State.
NOV. 12: HAWAII AT FRESNO STATE
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, I'D RATHER BE IN CLOVIS
As Hawaii's players leave the field after pregame warmups, they file past the Bulldogs' marching band. A brave trombonist taunts the visitors, shouting, "You're in Fresno now!"--as if there were any danger of mistaking the San Joaquin Valley for Oahu. "You're in our house!" He seems unconcerned that any one of the Warriors could seize his instrument and wrap it around his head like an Ace bandage. The trombonist feels emboldened, as do all Bulldogs when they are in the Dog House.
Pat Hill has made this an intimidating place to visit. Since becoming Fresno State's coach eight years ago, he has behaved like a young Bobby Bowden. His scheduling philosophy is, Any team, anywhere, anytime. Since 1999 his teams have won at least eight games each season, with a best of 11-3 in '01. They've beaten nine BCS-conference opponents in 12 tries. His goal is to play in a BCS bowl, and TV exposure is part of his strategy. To get it, Hill has had to make a kind of Faustian bargain in greenlighting numerous Friday-night games.
The rub is that high school football is a big, big deal in the Valley on Friday nights. By scheduling TV games on those nights, Fresno State has antagonized some of the citizens and scholastic coaches it seeks to win over. Hill has an intimate knowledge of the conflict: While the Bulldogs are routing Hawaii 70--14, Clovis High is taking on Clovis West nearby. Starting at right cornerback and returning punts for the Clovis West Golden Eagles is Matt Hill, the second of Pat's three sons.
Clovis West trails 7-0 when I arrive at halftime. On the first play of the second half, Eagles tailback Kyle Duffy goes 71 yards for a touchdown. The roar of the crowd would be considerably louder, says Clovis West athletic director Karen Sowby, if the Bulldogs weren't playing across town. "We love what they do for our community," she says, "but it hurts us [when both teams play at the same time]. It will probably cost us around $6,000 [in lost gate receipts]."
Says Pat Hill, "I'd rather play on Saturdays, and we're going to keep trying to earn it. Whatever day they ask us to play, we're going to play."