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Quote:Bowden Ready For Chapter 7 In UF Rivalry

JOEY JOHNSTON
Tampa Tribune
Published: May 16, 2005

CLEARWATER - For the 30th consecutive year, Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden is on a barnstorming tour, visiting his Seminole Boosters like clockwork. Golf in the morning. Banquet in the evening. Twenty- five stops in all.

Amazingly, he still treats everyone as a long-lost buddy. This isn't a rock star coming to town. With Bowden, it's closer to a family reunion.

Meanwhile, the University of Florida's parallel universe get- togethers are oozing with intensity, not surprising at all for new coach Urban Meyer, who is appearing in most of the same cities, before turn-away crowds and breathless fervor.

"New job, new enthusiasm, that's all part of it,'' Bowden said Friday after his round at the Countryside Country Club.  "They love you now. But you've got to win. He knows that.''

Bowden thought a little more about Urban Meyer, then smiled.

"I just call him Number 7,'' he said.

Doug Dickey, Charley Pell, Galen Hall, Gary Darnell, Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and ... Urban Meyer.

Number 7.

"I've been through a few Gator coaches, now,'' Bowden said.  "They're all good. The rivalry will always be there, no matter who's coaching. With Florida, with what that school has to offer, you have to mess that job up [not to win]. But they've had a few [coaches]. They're all a little different.

"Then here's Florida State. He's still here, ol' Bobby, isn't he?''

Still here.

Outlasting more than a half- dozen Gator coaches. Outlasting us all.

Let's Do Lunch

The numbers are staggering.

Bowden, 75, has no immediate plans to retire. He has 351 career victories, a Division I-A record. He soon will begin his 52nd season of college coaching.

But the state's primary buzz is about Urban Meyer, almost half of Bowden's age, entering his fifth season as a head coach.

``He's very, very serious,'' Bowden said. ``I can almost picture him now saying, `There's not going to be any foolishness here.' That's the style I see.''

Bowden saw it up close.

When Nike recently brought 30 of its coaches to an Aruba vacation, Bowden and wife Ann took their son (Clemson coach Tommy Bowden) and daughter-in-law to lunch. They also made room for another couple.

Urban and Shelley Meyer.

Mr. and Mrs. Number 7.

``I wanted to talk to him, know him a little bit,'' Bowden said. ``His record is amazing. He's a young one.

``Are they going to say he's young and I'm old, on my way out? Of course. I've been getting that for years, especially from the guy at Clemson [Tommy Bowden]. I keep waiting for it to hurt our recruiting. So far, they're still believing me instead of them [rival coaches].''

Championship Still The Goal

FSU got another big- time recruiting class. That has to make Bowden feel young. So might the departure of maddening four-year quarterback Chris Rix. The Seminoles have safe, unspectacular Wyatt Sexton as the probable starter, with Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee, potential stars, pushing hard as backups.

But regardless of how the talent looks, Bowden knows the Seminoles have regressed since winning the 1999 national championship. That also was the last time FSU defeated Miami (six consecutive losses), which comes to Tallahassee for the Labor Day Night ACC opener.

"As long as I'm here, our goal will always be to win the whole thing,'' Bowden said.  "We've been doing a lot less than that, and that doesn't stand up at Florida State.

"Winning the whole thing, that's why I'm still in there. If I thought there was not a chance, I'd probably be about ready to get out.  But I don't think that.''

Not by a long shot.

So Bowden keeps cranking, feeling "about 50'' while watching his diet, well aware that the Rose Bowl has the next BCS championship game ("Wouldn't that be something?'').

There's the prospect of two games this season against Miami. If the Seminoles and Hurricanes win their divisions, they would meet in the inaugural ACC Championship Game at Jacksonville.

Might that put a different light on the regular-season finale against Florida? Doubtful. Especially after last year's meeting at Tallahassee, when the Doak Campbell Stadium field was named for Bowden in a pregame ceremony. That made him nervous. Sure enough, fired Florida coach Ron Zook pulled the upset and was carried off Bowden's field in triumph.

"Zook deserved it, give him his due,'' Bowden said.  "It always scares me to get some award just before you need to play a ballgame. That one didn't leave a good taste in my mouth.''

Only one thing to do. That means another get-together with Urban Meyer, this one at Florida Field on Nov. 26. It may not be so cordial. In Bowden-speak - delivered by a 75-year-old man who seems revitalized, not worn out - here's the translation:

Watch out, Number 7!

Ol' Bobby is still here.
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