The family of Hall of Fame coach Bobby Bowden announced Wednesday that he has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, per a release to the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat.
The Democrat reports that Bowden, 91, has struggled to regain his strength after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in October 2020; he was also hospitalized five days in late June. Regardless, the legendary Florida State coach said he is “prepared for what is to come” after his diagnosis. The Democrat also reports the Bowden family requests privacy as he deals with his health.
“I’ve always tried to serve God’s purpose for my life, on and off the field, and I am prepared for what is to come,” Bowden told the Democrat. “My wife Ann and our family have been life’s greatest blessing.
“I am at peace.”
Bowden ranks fourth all time in NCAA history with 377 wins after 40 seasons, behind only John Gagliardi (489), Joe Paterno (409) and Eddie Robinson (408). The Birmingham, Ala., native began his head coaching career at West Virginia in 1970, where over six seasons he led the Mountaineers to a 42-26 record, 1-1 bowl record and one top-25 finish.
Florida State hired Bowden to head its football program at a time when it was not considered among college football’s elite teams; the program went through five coaches over the previous 22 seasons prior to his arrival, enjoying only 11 winning seasons, one bowl win and zero top-25 finishes. After debuting with a 5-6 record in 1976 — his only losing record as coach of the Seminoles — Bowden led the team to an unprecedented era of success, starting with a 10-2 record in 1977, capped with a win in the Tangerine Bowl.
His teams enjoyed marginal success over the next several years before starting an incredible run of 28 straight bowl games (1982-2009) and an even more impressive run of 14 consecutive top-five finishes (1987-2000). He enjoyed a 21-10-1 bowl record and two national championships, won in the 1993 and 1999 seasons. In all, he led the Seminoles to 12 ACC championships (in 18 seasons in the league) and 18 double digit-win seasons, including seven seasons with just one loss and one undefeated season in 1999.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.