TALLAHASSEE -- Guess who's coming back? Bobby Bowden, Florida State's Hall of Fame former head coach, will end his FSU absence. After four years of staying away from Doak Campbell Stadium to allow current coach Jimbo Fisher to lead the Seminoles, Bowden will make his long-anticipated return this fall.
The university announced Bowden's return Friday morning, confirming reports from as early as January that made mention that such an occurrence may have been in the works.
According to FSU, Bowden will come back for two games this season: Oct. 26 for FSU's game against North Carolina State, and Nov. 16 for the Seminoles' Homecoming game against Syracuse. FSU will be recognizing the 1993 national championship team during homecoming, as the team celebrates 20 years since it won the program's first national championship.
It has been 13 years since the Seminoles won their second, and most recent.
These two games will mark the first time Bowden has attended a game at FSU since 2009, his last year coaching. Bowden was effectively forced to retire at the end of that season, closing out a 33-year tenure with the Seminoles that included the two national titles and 14 straight Top 5 finishes in the final AP Poll of each season.
"What Bobby Bowden means to Florida State University cannot be measured or overstated,” school president Eric Barron said. “Words like respect, sincerity, class, honesty, charm and humor come to mind, along with his remarkable 33-year stellar record coaching our football team. We look forward with much enthusiasm and excitement to his return to the FSU campus."
Bowden's last game, the New Year's Day 2010 Gator Bowl, ended in a victory over another school he coached, West Virginia. The quarterback in that game, EJ Manuel, was a redshirt freshman that season. Thursday night, Manuel was selected by the Buffalo Bills with the 16th overall pick in the NFL Draft.
"It is a challenge to find the words to describe all that Bobby Bowden means to Florida State University," FSU board of trustees chair Allan Bense said. "He will not only be welcomed back to campus as the man who put the FSU football program on the national collegiate football map; he will be honored as well for
what he meant and still means to this institution as a man of tremendous personality, character and faith that still resonate throughout this institution.”
Last September, Bowden was officially inducted into FSU's Hall of Fame. He was inducted alongside his longtime secretary, Sue Hall, and former quarterback Danny Kanell. Although he attended the awards dinner the Friday night of the Hall of Fame weekend, Bowden did not attend the game the next day.
Before that, the previous December, Bowden made his only public visit to Doak Campbell Stadium since his retirement when he gave the keynote address at the Tallahassee Quarterback Club's annual awards banquet. Manuel, and safety Lamarcus Joyner received awards during the dinner, which was held in the University Club at the top of the South end of the stadium.
"I know the entire Seminole fan base will be excited to see Coach Bowden back in Doak Campbell Stadium and standing on the field named for him," athletics director Randy Spetman said. "Coach Bowden has been an ambassador of Florida State University and our athletics programs for decades, and we are looking forward to giving our fans a chance to express their appreciation in his favorite environment."
This Sunday, Bowden is expected to make his first public appearance with Fisher since his retirement when the two team up with Alabama coach Nick Saban for a fundraiser benefit for the Kidz1stFund, a non-profit organization created by Fisher and his wife Candi after their youngest son was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, a rare genetic blood disorder.
The event will be held in Birmingham, Ala., another city where Bowden once coached and where Jimbo Fisher first met him. Candi Fisher is from Birmingham. The event is sold-out.
"It’s great that Coach Bowden is coming back to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the national championship at Florida State," Fisher said. "He’s one of the great coaches of all-time as well as a personal friend and mentor to me. He’s meant so much to Florida State and me in my career.
"I could not be happier he’ll be back with us."
In the past, Bowden said he likely would take several years before he made a return to FSU so as to not get in the way of what Fisher was trying to do in growing the program.
Four years after Fisher took his mantle, Bowden is coming back.