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Bobby Bowden, It’s a Dadgum Mad World

miller-article1One of my favorite songs is “Mad World” performed by Gary Jules.

His acoustic version is a cover of the 1980s hit made popular by the British pop band Tears for Fears.

More recently, Mad World became well-known with the success of the film Donnie Darko in 2001.

And, five years later, it was played all over television with the release of Gears of War, a blood-and-guts video game.

That transitions me into where I am headed: the slow-fall of legendary Florida State head football coach Bobby Bowden.

Whether you are one who wears orange and blue, black and red or garnet and gold, a piece of you has to feel bad about where Bowden is at this time in his lengthy career.

Of course, credit has to be given where credit is due. The man is a living legend with nearly 400 career wins.

Nobody can ever take away the accomplishments, tangible and intangible, that Bowden has brought to Florida State University.

Two national championships (1993 and 1999) and 14 straight years (1987-2000) of finishing the year ranked in the top five are lines other NCAA coaches would love to have on their resumes.

But, the years of going 13-0-1 over a span of 14 bowl games have been over for some time now.

Since the 2001 season, Bowden has gone 69-39 and won four bowl games.

Essentially, Bowden equaled that total in a little over six seasons (1995-2000). And, if you ask any intelligent college football fan, it was a phenomenal run few head coaches will match.

Back to the song. The first four lines of Mad World are fitting for Bowden’s current state of affairs at FSU.

“All around me are familiar faces Worn out places, worn out faces Bright and early for the daily races Going nowhere, going nowhere.”

The 79-year-old Bowden is surrounded by long-time defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews and Oakley-wearing Chuck Amato, who returned to FSU in 2007 after seven years as North Carolina State’s head coach.

Prior to N.C. State, Amato was on Bowden’s staff as linebackers coach from 1981-1999. Talk about familiar faces.

As Bowden shuffles along the sideline on the field which bears his name, he has led his Seminoles to a near-loss to Jacksonville State and losses to Miami and South Florida.

For the fans, disbelief, heartache and misery are a few of the words associated with Florida State football.

Others are used, but they would have made the late comedian George Carlin blush.

The next lines of the song refer to the fans who may be mourning the program’s demise in a bar or on their sofas. In either location, a cold alcoholic beverage is not far away.

“Their tears are filling up their glasses

No expression, no expression

Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow

No tomorrow, no tomorrow.”

FSU fans equate tomorrow with cheerful Florida Gator fans. The success of a rival program never makes the comparison better.

Now, the discussion of Bowden’s stepping down is nothing new. The 2-3 start, the slowest since 1976, has fueled the fire.

Whether you believe head coach in-waiting Jimbo Fisher, current offensive coordinator, should take over the throne, one item is clear – Bobby Bowden needs to step down.

In the world of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, Bowden’s records and wins mean little. Additionally, the 2007 academic cheating scandal will not go away.

For the past handful of seasons, the FSU football program has been spiraling out of control. Someone needs to correct this nose dive because the altitude change is making fans ill.

A portion of a Mad World’s chorus is “And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad.…”

It has gotten to the point that nobody knows what to feel on the matter. The mixed emotions are overwhelming.

It’s because both Bowden and the university deserve much better

And, it is impossible to see the Alabama native donning his wide-brimmed straw hat much longer on the sidelines.

There would be no Saturdays filled with “dadgums” and other Southern-filled phrases.

It is nearing the end of an era, but for Bowden “it’s a very, very mad world.”

In the end, “I find it kind of sad.”


Richard Miller also is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio. He can be heard on ABC 1320 WBOB in Jacksonville at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesdays with The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show. Richard contributes to Inside the Game with Robin Valetutto every Saturday from 12-2 p.m. Currently, he is collaborating with David Lamm on a book, which will be available in 2010.

You can e-mail Richard at Richard.miller@jaxobserver.com.

9 Responses »

  1. In 1993, David Lamm was responding to fan anger over a decision that Bobby Bowden made after a touchdown. FSU had won 7 or 8 straight games that year leading up to the National Championship.

    The callers were perturbed over Bowden's decision not to go for 2 points, which given the offensive line would have been a cake walk. Instead, Bowden took the easy field goal (BACK THEN - NO WIDE RIGHT).

    Comments of "He's too old" and "Fire the coach" were made over and over.

    Lamm in his deep classic voice, angrily said, "You people are way to cocky! A season like this only comes along once in a blue moon. You should cherish it and take in the moment. Bowden is a great coach but for the team to rise to this level is a miracle."

    Well he was right. It took another 6 years for another Championship season. Oh, FSU finished in the top five but the feeling of a Championship season spoils everyone.

    Bobby had lived long enough for the "Football Gods" to shine on him and we glowed in his victories.

    What goes wrong is that the fans want that feeling again so badly that they hang with the coach. The coach wants the feeling so badly that he hangs in there long after the stellar "once in a lifetime" stack of excellent players walk from the field. It is a perfect storm for what is about to happen.

    Instead of the screaming an yelling as the victorious General walks of the field of battle in the bright lights and camera snapshots, he angry fans turn off the lights and the old-timer is put out to the pasture.

    Remember '93 and '99 season and give the poor man a break. If he wins the rest of the season's games the feeling will return and we'll carry him off on our shoulders.

    Bobby - Thanks for the memories ! Leave Proud ! You earned it. Your success built that big stadium, paid for tons of high salaries, improved the professorships at FSU and elevated FSU to a BIG TEN name. Tens of thousands of students chose FSU over other schools to feel the excitement.


    • I agree 100% that he has built the FSU football program to memorable and outstanding heights. But, it is time for a return of the passion on and off the field. FSU has the talent and deserves more wins. But, there is no doubt that Bobby Bowden is a living legend and deserves all the credit he is due. And, FSU fans should not be so quick to forget the history. Too many of the fans were born after the big years!

    • Paul that was eloquently written. I am a diehard Ga. fan, but rest assured, I love Bobby Bowden. I never have forgotten all that he's done at FSU and his fair weathered fans need to remember and thank their lucky stars that they have him . Bobby you were the best and you will be missed beyond the borders of Tallahassee and Florida.

      • All we can do is pray that Georgia pulls off the upset and beats the famed Gators. We love all the Georgia fans coming to Jacksonville and hope they are able to stay a few extra days and enjoy a win. Good Luck !

  2. I have one suggestion for Bobby. Express yourself on the sidelines. When there is a disconnect with the fans anger at a play and your face it makes them mad.

    Smile when things go good and demonstrate anger when things go bad. Show us some passion.

  3. Even as a Gator fan, I feel that Bobby Bowden deserves a heap of credit for his accomplishments, but his time to go is a bit overdue. The desire to hang in there forever is a sign of a person with a huge ego, who will not listen to what is going on around him.

  4. Very enlightening and creative column. Based on everything I have read and heard, I believe Bowden will step down when this season is over. But, I trust that the FSU program and Bowden will decide when the time is right. For now, the fans just need to stay behind the team, the coach and the players. As Bowden pointed out, the losses were close and the team has a lot of talent to win the games. The losses have only been by 21 points for 3 games.

  5. Hey, man, cool comparison. It is a situation full of mixed emotions. Here's hoping that it all works out in favor of the FSU football program and for Bobby Bowden who deserves the very best for a lifetime of achievements.

  6. As a soccer fan, I am just now familiarizing with football, but Coach Bowden is a very good coach and should be rewarded for such loyalty to the team.