Of all the major college programs to find their football coaching position turned into a revolving door, Florida State is the last one you would expect.
The Seminoles finally reeled in Willie Taggart on Tuesday, completing their first full-scale coach search since Bobby Bowden came aboard in January of 1976. I know that sounds like a long time ago but you really want to know how long?
Bobby’s first FSU salary was $37,500 a year.
Jimbo Fisher, of course, was designated as the head-coach-in-waiting while serving on Bobby’s staff, making for an automatic transition in 2010 without a messy search. Now he’s gone to Texas A&M, calling the decision “a no-brainer.”
No wonder Bobby is so adored in Tallahassee, with a stained-glass image at the stadium and a statue out front. He built a lasting connection to FSU, one that couldn’t be severed despite many tempting offers to coach elsewhere.
In 1990 Alabama made an offer to Bowden but, after a few days of chewing on it, he declined.
“By that time, I felt like FSU was my school,” Bowden said in his book “Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith and Football.”
“No matter what I could have done as Alabama’s coach, it still would have been Coach (Bear) Bryant’s program. I could never have topped his accomplishment there.”
There’s a strong element of loyalty in there, but a bit of anxiety and humility, too. Other coaches positively burn with ambition, believing themselves capable of accomplishing anything, anywhere. Nick Saban, for instance, wasn’t afraid to take on the Bear’s legacy at Alabama. Jimbo didn’t shy away from following Bobby at FSU, either.
In his book Bobby also says he passed on offers from LSU and Auburn and the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons through the years. He formally interviewed at Alabama in 1987, too, and was disappointed not to get an offer that time. Probably would have gone if he did.
There is no good way and no good time for a coach to leave one school for another, at least in the eyes of his former employer. Now Taggart is getting ripped at Oregon, where he coached for one season after upgrading from South Florida. If he ever left FSU for another job, we’d have a true gypsy, a modern-day Lou Saban, on our hands.
I’m thinking in all of this there will be a new wave of nostalgia for good ol’ Bobby.
Nobody cares now about the reasons that he stayed at FSU for 34 years, or about the close calls that almost took him away.
All that matters is that he stayed, and he never made it seem like some kind of sacrifice on his part.
In today’s climate, that is at once wonderful and weird.