Former Florida State coach Bowden launches blitz on cancer detection

Bobby Bowden didn’t want word to get out about the prostate cancer diagnosis he received in 2007.

He was still the football coach at Florida State, and he believed other coaches would use it against him in the cut-throat world of college recruiting.

Now that Bowden is in retirement — is it truly retirement for someone who, at almost 82, is constantly on the road? — he wants to spread the word about the dangers of prostate cancer and the importance of early detection.

"I’m retired from football, but not life," said Bowden, who now spends much of his time as a public speaker. "I wouldn’t be happy being retired and sitting and doing nothing."

Bowden will speak Oct. 22 at Red Rock Resort to benefit the Faith Lutheran Junior/Senior High School scholarship endowment fund.

Whether Bowden will speak that night about overcoming prostate cancer isn’t certain, but he serves as a spokesman trying to raise awareness to combat the disease.

He discovered he had cancer while undergoing a routine checkup.

The cancer was caught early, and Bowden’s larger concern was maintaining his privacy. He registered for the surgery under an alias, had the procedure performed late at night and was taken to a secure part of the hospital for his recovery.

"When the doctor told me something was wrong, he knew that we needed to keep it quiet," Bowden said. "If the people you’re trying to recruit know that you’ve got cancer and you’re already 77 years old, you ain’t going to get nobody. They don’t come if they think you’re going to be gone."

Bowden said beating cancer wasn’t foremost on his mind anyway.

"I wasn’t hurting at all, so I didn’t think anything of it," he said.

He went on to coach Florida State through the 2009 season before facing an awkward end with the program he had rescued beginning in 1976. The Seminoles were only three years removed from going 0-11 when Bowden took over.

Florida State won national championships in 1993 and 1999, and Bowden’s 377 victories over his 44-year career are second at the major college level, trailing only Joe Paterno’s 394 at Penn State.

But with the program having slipped from its enormous highs late in Bowden’s career, Florida State’s administration pushed him out to make room for Jimbo Fisher, who had been announced as coach-in-waiting.

"I wasn’t winning enough games there in the last six, seven, eight years to make them happy, but at least we didn’t have any losing seasons," Bowden said.

"I tried to get one more year because I thought that was the way it was set up, that Coach Fisher was supposed to take over in 2011. So they cut me off a year early, but that’s old news now. I’m very happy with the way things are going. I’m pulling for Jimbo. I think he’s an excellent coach."

Bowden said he likes what he sees at Florida State, even though the Seminoles are 2-3 this season and unranked. And though he supports the Seminoles, Bowden hasn’t been back on campus since being forced out.

He didn’t want to put Fisher through what Bowden experienced when he followed coach Jim Carlen at West Virginia in 1970, a year after the Mountaineers finished 10-1.

"I don’t go over (to Florida State) because I’ve always said when I got through coaching, I would get out of there," Bowden said. "Because I followed a real good coach one time, a real successful coach, and it was very difficult because everything I did they would compare with him. It really caused us some hard feelings.

"So I always made up my mind when I left Florida State, I would get out of the picture and let the other guy come in there and have a free hand."


For information about tickets and/or sponsorships for Bowden’s benefit appearance on behalf of Faith Lutheran Junior/Senior High School on Oct. 22, call 804-4473 or visit the school’s website:

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

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