Bobby Bowden, the lovable mascot with the bemused expression and eclectic hats and glasses who has walked the Florida State sidelines for the past 34 years, may have worked his final game on Saturday.
“He has done so much for our university and for our football program,” said university president T.K. Wetherell. “Bobby Bowden has almost nothing to do with the football team itself or what happens on the field, but our fans love him more than any current or former player or coach. That the mark of a great mascot.”
The mascot has been forced to cut back on his colorful routine of yelling and folksiness in recent years to do its increased age — and it may be health concerns that end a career perhaps only rivaled by the likes of the Phillie Phanatic, the San Diego Chicken and the University of Georgia’s Uga.
Junior quarterback Christian Ponder says that while Bobby Bowden isn’t a true member of the team, he does have an impact on them.
“We love him,” said Ponder. “Coach Fisher will be running a practice or going over the gameplan or something, and all of a sudden Bobby Bowden will come marching through out of nowhere, yelling and carrying on about something. He’s hilarious. You can’t get too tight with him around. He always lightens the mood.”
Ponder also credited Bowden for recruiting him to Florida State when he was a highly-coveted high school player three years ago.
“Most schools sent their head coach or some intense, hard-nosed assistant to my house to talk to me,” said Ponder. “But Florida State sent their mascot. That’s what won me over. It showed me they keep football fun here.”
Despite the rumors, Bobby Bowden – who famously always stays in his character– told amused reporters today that he has no plans to retire.
“Retire? What are you talking about? I’m focusing on getting these kids ready for next season and nothing else,” he croaked, working the crowd masterfully. And then he delivered the punch line to uproarious laughter: “I’m not the retiring type and I'm not a figurehead or a mascot. I’m a head football coach!"
Wetherell says he hopes Bowden does step away.
“He deserves a break,” he said. “It must be exhausting to be a public figure like that, always in character playing the cranky and old, but lovable, grandfather-type. And I can’t imagine how hot it must be inside that ridiculous costume.”