The family of Hall of Fame coach Bobby Bowden announced Wednesday that he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, according to a statement from Democrat of Tallahassee, Fla.
Democrat reports Bowden, 91, struggled to regain strength after being diagnosed with COVID-19 in October 2020; he was also hospitalized for five days at the end of June. Regardless, the legendary Florida state coach said he was “prepared for what was to come” after his diagnosis. The Democrat also reports that the Bowden family are asking for confidentiality as he deals with his health.
“I’ve always tried to serve God’s purpose for my life, on and off the pitch, and I’m ready for what’s to come,” Bowden told the Democrat. “My wife Ann and our family have been the greatest blessing in life.
“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 in West Virginia in 1970, where for six seasons he led the Mountaineers to 42-26, 1-1 and a top 25.
The State of Florida hired Bowden to lead its football program at a time when he was not considered among the elite teams in college football; the program had gone through five coaches in the previous 22 seasons prior to his arrival, enjoying just 11 winning seasons, one bowl win and zero top-25s. After making his debut with a record 5-6 in 1976 – his only losing record as a Seminoles coach – Bowden led the team to an era of unprecedented success, starting with a 10-2 record in 1977, crowned with a victory at the Tangerine Bowl.
His teams enjoyed marginal success in the following years before starting an incredible streak of 28 consecutive games (1982-2009) and an even more impressive streak of 14 consecutive top-five (1987-2000) rankings. He enjoyed a bowl record of 21-10-1 and two national championships, won in the 1993 and 1999 seasons. In total, he led the Seminoles to 12 ACC championships (in 18 seasons in the league) and 18 double-digit seasons, including seven seasons with one loss and one season unbeaten in 1999.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.