TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In the history of football in the State of Florida, few names are greater than former Florida State head coaching legend Bobby Bowden, according to the university.
On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis presented the college football legend with the inaugural Governor's Medal of Freedom surrounded by 50 former players and coaches.
The medal represents the highest civilian award the governor can bestow.
“Coach Bowden is someone who has lived his life according to very strong values," DeSantis said. "Faith in God, patriotism – he loves this Florida State community, he loves this state, and he loves this country. It is an honor of mine to give him this first award.”
Bowden, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, took over the struggling FSU program in 1976, saying it was closer to home than his current job at the University of West Virginia. Bowden soon made the Seminoles into one of the top programs in the country.
Under Coach Bowden's leadership, the Seminoles won two national championships in 1993 and 1999, 12 conference titles and had a top 4 ranking in 14 consecutive seasons. Between 1981 and 2009, the year of his retirement, the Seminoles played in a remarkable 28 consecutive bowl games, winning 20 of them.
“I’ve heard it said over the years, and I sincerely believe it’s true, no coach in college athletics history is more closely associated with the institution they represent than Bobby Bowden and Florida State,” FSU President John Thrasher said. “Thank you, Coach, for raising our profile and helping Florida State University become one of the top institutions in the country.”
Bowden officially won 377 games during his long career as a head coach, including 304 at Florida State, placing him second behind only Penn State's Joe Paterno for the most in major college football history. However, 12 wins at FSU were vacated by the NCAA due to sanctions.
“I thank the Governor for this honor,” Bowden said. “You know that the head coach gets all the credit, but it is the players and the assistant coaches who do all the work. I will treasure this award for the rest of my life.”
Bowden retired following the 2009 season. His last game was the 2010 Gator Bowl against his former team, the West Virginia Mountaineers in Jacksonville. Notably, during the game's pregame ceremony, Florida State honored Bowden's career by allowing him to plant Chief Osceola's spear at midfield.