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The passing of former Florida State head football coach Bobby Bowden has left an impact on many in the college football world, even to those who never met him.
That’s Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, who enters his 12th season in charge of the Fighting Irish, and will see his team take on the Seminoles this Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in the first game on Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium since Bowden’s death at the age of 91 on Aug. 8 due to pancreatic cancer.
Speaking with the media on Thursday, Kelly marveled at Bowden’s accomplishments, which included a 14-season streak from 1987-2000 of finishing in the top-five of the AP Poll, along with National Championships in 1993 and 1999.
“His influence on coaching was real,” Kelly said. “The thing that stood out to me, first and foremost, was longevity at one school. Being committed to that school and building a winning program. A program that won every single year. And that’s so impressive to do it year in and year out.”
Bowden’s longevity consisted of 33 years at Florida State, consisting of 57 wins, second most all-time in the FBS behind Penn State’s Joe Paterno.
But what stuck out to Kelly was how Bowden got to Florida State in the first place. Bowden coached at West Virginia from 1970-1975, coaching the Mountaineers to a 42-26 record before making the move to Tallahassee. There, Bowden entered uncharted waters, a program that had won just four games in the previous three seasons before he arrived.
It’s easy to see how Kelly could identify with Bowden’s journey, as he got his start at Grand Valley State, Eastern Michigan and Cincinnati before making it big time at Notre Dame.
“I think the second thing is, for me, he started at a small school and then moved Florida State into national prominence,” Kelly said.
Kelly also said he had a lot of respect for the relationship that Bowden had with his players, calling Bowden an icon in coaching.
“And then his relationship with his players,” Kelly said. “I think he goes down as one of those icons in coaching as having that fatherly, mentor relationship with his players that many, many coaches would love to have with their players.”
Florida State plans to hold a pregame ceremony in the middle of the field Sunday night in honor of Bowden, while players will wear special decals on their helmets.