Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Bowden visits Tuscaloosa for college GameDay

Jerrod Seaton

Coaching legend Bobby Bowden returned to his home state Saturday to participate in the gameday activities surrounding the renewed Alabama-Penn State rivalry.

Starting in the morning, Bowden made an appearance as the guest selector on ESPN GameDay’s selection show. The show took place in front of the north end zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium. For the game in Tuscaloosa, Bowden picked Alabama to win.

Then, in the afternoon, Bowden was in the Bryant Museum, signing copies of his books. And in the pre-game festivities, Bowden was introduced at midfield, joined by Penn State’s Joe Paterno, another coaching legend, and Alabama’s own, Nick Saban.

During his visit in Tuscaloosa, Bowden said one of the most memorable things was watching the tailgating.

“I’ve coached for 57 years,” he said. “Today is the first day I saw tailgating. When you’re coaching, you drive up in the bus, see the stadium, walk in the gate. But as we drove around today and walked around today and saw those tents and all that food, it was wall-to-wall food. I thought they were starving up here in Tuscaloosa.”

The last time he’d seen a game in Tuscaloosa was back in 1948, when he was a senior at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham and Alabama was trying to recruit him out of high school.

He’s spent 30 years in Alabama and the other 50 in Florida, but he said Birmingham will always be his home.

“I’m always proud to come back,” he said. “There’s no place like home.”

He played for Alabama for one year in 1948 and then transferred to Howard College, now Samford University, to stay with his then-girlfriend and present wife.

After college, he had numerous coaching jobs, one of which was West Virginia, where he gave Saban a coaching job.

“I knew his daddy better than I knew him because his daddy coached little league football, and he always had a bunch of kids around him,” Bowden said. “And Nick was one of those kids. His daddy died very young. I hated to see that. We had an opening. I was thinking I offered him an assistant job, but it could’ve been a GA [graduate assistant]. We hired him, and then I left. I came to Florida State. He’s just done tremendous wherever he’s been.”

In 1987, Bowden thought he was going to be asked to come back and coach at Alabama, but he wasn’t. Then, four years later, he was called again – this time he was really offered the job.

“I told him no, I was too old,” Bowden said. “Then I got the feeling that [Alabama] is ‘Bear’ Bryant’s, and that [Florida State] is Bobby Bowden’s. I got no business going up there. Ain’t no way I could ever match that guy.”

As far as how Florida State played yesterday against Oklahoma, the team didn’t live up to its No. 17 ranking. No. 10 Oklahoma beat them in Norman, Okla., 47-17. Bowden said he didn’t get to watch the second half, but he said in the first half he watched, he thought FSU could do a lot better.

“I’m sure they’ve got a lot to learn,” he said. “The whole key to Florida State this year is defense. Can your defense play good enough?”

Bowden maintains that he didn’t want to retire from coaching, and he said that he doesn’t think Paterno should step away before he’s ready either.

“Joe deserves to step away when Joe decides to step away,” Bowden said. “I think Joe is smart enough that when he can’t get the job done, he’ll leave.”

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