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Counterpoint: Bobby Bowden is Florida State University


(Originally posted on

Yesterday, NoleCC posted a lengthy piece on why he was opposed to people saying statements such as “Bobby Bowden is FSU” or “Bobby Bowden made FSU”. He claims Florida State University would have been Florida State University even if Robert Cleckler Bowden had never stepped foot on campus. According to NoleCC,

It bothers me that players and media alike want to minimize what a great university Florida State is academically and culturally by chalking up the success and fame of FSU to ONLY the football program.

NoleCC uses his own experiences as a student to make the point that because his enrollment was in no way shaped by Bobby Bowden, then no student’s was. This is a faulty premise. As a matter of fact, there is even a chance NoleCC is completely wrong. According to NoleCC, “FSU was in major transition with renovations going on everywhere“. From the late 1980s to 2000s, what was the university’s biggest cash cow? The football team, of course. The Bobby Bowden-led Seminoles were the catalyst that drove the entire university to upgrade in 1990s. From the T.K. Wetherell Building and the University Center surrounding the former Giant Erector set that was Doak Campbell Stadium, to the medical school, to Strozier Library, I doubt any facility was constructed or improved without some contribution from the athletic department.

Think about this, even in its most simplest terms, had the football team not done well, and had Doak Campbell not been upgraded, perhaps the registrar and admissions office might still be in the Westcott  Building. The upgrade in administrative capability allowed the school to handle more students, students who chose FSU over Florida, USF, or UCF. Bobby Bowden is the reason these students were able to go to FSU.

There is no doubt athletically we owe our school’s reputation to Bobby Bowden. There is a lot of prestige that comes with being a top-5 football team for 15 years. Without Bobby Bowden, we might have had the crossover talent in other sports that we had. There would have been no Deion Sanders playing baseball or Charlie Ward playing basketball. No Charlie Ward playing basketball means no tournament appearance in the early 90s and the money that brought in.

Although I see where NoleCC is coming from and yes, many students may have chosen to come to FSU based strictly on academics or programs or opportunities or maybe even the beautiful landscape of Tallahassee. But, then again, some also have chosen FSU because Jim Morrison of The Doors went there (ex. the lead singer of Creed). However, if not for Bobby Bowden, the university they enrolled in would be a completely different place. To put it bluntly, it would be a middle-of-the-road university far overshadowed in all but a few areas by other state colleges. Basically, it would have been the University of Central Florida.

Florida State University is the Florida State University it is today because of Bobby Bowden. He is, directly or indirectly, Florida State University.


16 comments on Counterpoint: Bobby Bowden is Florida State University

  1. Excellent post Jordi. Excellent. I’ll be the first to say that I do agree on some level that “Trickle Down Economics” works when you have a successful football team.

    A couple of things though… I didn’t want to make the point that every student was like me in his or her decision making process. What I was trying to convey was that not everybody makes it based solely on a football program. I’m sure some do, but like you pointed out, some also go to FSU because Jim Morrison spent a semester or two here. On top of that, FSU would have still seen a major explosion in student population, thanks to the sheer numbers of people that attend a state university. UCF and USF aren’t bigger than FSU because they have great football teams, they’re bigger because there are so many students that want to go to college.

    We’ll never know “what could have been” in the many alternate universes where Bobby Bowden wasn’t at FSU for so many years. Who’s to say that another coach wouldn’t have been as or more successful? Ultimately it is naive for me to think that Bobby Bowden had 0 impact on FSU, but I’ll continue to think that it was much less than many people would like to believe.

    And I’ll say it again, excellent post as always Jordi!

  2. Jordi
    There is the good, the bad, and the ugly when I view the reign of Bobby Bowden at FSU.
    The GOOD = $$$$$$$ brought to the University which primarily was spent on the Athletic facilities and immediate grounds. $$$$$$$ attracted to the University because of good national exposure when we had a winning program.
    The BAD = Nepotism and the $$$$$$$ spent to recover from that mess, followed by the stealing, fighting, DUIs, gambling, cheating and the nickname “Criminoles” under Bobby Bowden.
    The UGLY = The STRONG SENSE of ENTITLEMENT that became a problem for Bobby and his players because of his example. How about the stained glass window, the statue and a field named Bowden all before he retired? How about the NCAA ruling that just came down and all the $$$$$$$ spent trying to defend the athletes and Coach Bowden’s record? Consider Rix and his special living arrangement and his warped view of parking privileges.
    Perhaps THE BAD and THE UGLY trump THE GOOD?
    Florida State University will continue to attract Athletes, scholars, inventors, artistic and musical success stories and scientific achievements even after Bowden leaves town.

  3. Jordi makes some good points. But if the Bowden Effect attracted students and dollars in the 80s and 90s, how many of both were lost — as well as damage to the school’s image — during the 2000’s, because of the negativity of bad decisions (like Jeff) and players acting up since BB distanced himself from the day-to-day while assistants failed to do due diligence on recruits’ character?

  4. The faulty premise in this rebuttal is that somehow Bobby Bowden is unique and that no one else could have accomplished what he did. FSU is and was a first tier school in fast growing state. They are smack dab in the middle of some of the most fertile recruiting territory in the country, FL and South GA. If Bobby had left for Alabama, FSU would have had the pick of coaches, I believe there were a couple of others that won national championships during that time. While Bobby is to be admired and respected, he benefited from circumstances as much as anyone. In many ways he was in the right place at the right time. God Bless him, he made the most of it.

  5. We’ll never know for sure, but who is to say that FSU could not have become a successful program with a different head coach? In an area loaded with talent, all that had to be done was to raise the financial support to build the infrastructure to attract the recruits. Now, Bowden was exceptionally good at doing this, but can we really claim that nobody else could have? Miami and UF’s probations of the 80’s and early 90’s allowed FSU to cherry pick the top talent in the loaded state of Florida, and during the dyansty years we won on almost completely talent and depth. Florida State has always had the basic resources to have a successful football program, but it needed the money to jumpstart the process. Bobby Bowden was certainly a good fundraiser and he accomplished this.

  6. Sorry Jordi,
    just read the first paragraph where you said

    The Bobby Bowden-led Seminoles were the catalyst that drove the entire university to upgrade in 1990s. From the T.K. Wetherell Building and the University Center surrounding the former Giant Erector set that was Doak Campbell Stadium, to the medical school, to Strozier Library, I doubt any facility was constructed or improved without some contribution from the athletic department.

    This is completely false. For years the Chemistry Department has donated and raised more money for FSU than every sport combined, and its not even close. This started around mid-to-late 1980’s with Dr. Robert Holton. He’s a professor at FSU. . . and is worth over 200 million dollars thanks to his synthesis of a groundbreaking cancer drug Taxol. He basically synthesized a product that was thought to only exist in rare Brazilian Yew trees. Both he and Florida State received a certain percentage of the sales of this drug, which quickly reached amounts in the hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars. Since then, the FSU Chemistry Department has been the top donator by far, and they rode that wave in the 90’s and 2000’s. Sorry for the history lesson but I am currently taking multiple Chem classes for PrePharmacy at FSU, and this is a story that most of the knowledgeable students are familiar with. I have been told more than once that if the Chemistry Dept. at FSU went under, then FSU would go with it.

    Once again sorry to reply like this, I just wanted to clear that up before I finished reading.

  7. Okay just finished it, I can only say your point about the potential of various football stars is valid, other than that your entire counterpoint is based on a false premise.

  8. Jordi, this kind of thinking is so bizarre that I only hope that you aren’t an actual graduate. In what universe do you reside that makes you think athletics is some giant booster to the actual mission of a university,academics? The biggest mover and shaker in terms of FSU’s explosion on the national scene was simple demographics. The state has grown tremendously. The second is that as the state grew and matured, the legislature actually became populated with FSU grads. I’m nearing the half century mark. I’m old, but not ancient, and remember vividly how far down the food chain FSU was when it came to funding. You give all this credit to Bobby. Where’s your praise of Bernie Sliger? I can make a great case that if it weren’t for Bernie, not only would FSU still be a second tier university, but Bobby would be a mere footnote in college football history. I’m glad Bobby is part of our history. Fortunately there was an incredible history BBB (how on earth did the backwoods town of Tallahasee have one of the finest women’s colleges on the East coast?) and will have an incredible future ABB (use your imagination).

    BTW I am a letterwinnner as well as a graduate. I am an avid FSU fan and a charming, downhome, southern gentleman convinced me to attend Florida State (cut me some slack, I was 18). His name? Hugh Durham

  9. @freshcollegeboy – You make an excellent point. I totally forgot about the chemistry department. However, I know I saw a sign somewhere on campus the last time I was there (Sept 09?) where it said library improvements were funded by the athletic dept. So I don’t think I am completely in the wrong. Maybe not 100% right, but not 100% wrong. Although I would definitely like to see who funded the University Center.

    @journey I disagree with your explanation of demographics. Here’s why: Tallahassee is in the middle of nowhere. As Central and South FL boomed in growth (much more than the panhandle), why didn’t students want to go to UCF? Or why didn’t USF turn into a major powerhouse before 2005-ish? USF became a school about the same time FSU went co-ed (roughly). Why didn’t they get the talent? Because of Bobby Bowden (and possibly Bernie, although I don’t go that far back, sorry).

  10. Jordi & Journey
    Passionate and educated fans are the backbone of FSU!

    Keep up the posting even when there is disagreement!

    Graduates are the backbone of FSU and if FSU is a great institution of learning, then its graduates may disagree on many issues, because that is part of the higher academic experience for any generation. Please also keep in mind that the fan base and fan issues may also be raised by non graduates of FSU and by non graduates of college which does not diminish their $$$$$ contributions nor their mindful opinions.

  11. Jordi,
    The number of students attending UCF is mind boggling. It is one of the largest universities in the United States. What USF has done with there football program in 14 short years is nothing short of incredible. I’m fairly certain Bobby had nothing to do with either occurrence , but both were greatly influenced by the growth of the state (just as FSU has been).

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