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FSU coach Bobby Bowden to retire after bowl game

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Bobby Bowden will end his 44-year coaching career after Florida State plays in a bowl game.

Bowden will retire as the second winningest coach in major-college football behind Penn State's Joe Paterno. The 80-year-old Bowden has won 388 games at Samford, West Virginia and Florida State, where he spent the last 34 seasons.

"We've got one more game and I look forward to enjoying these next few weeks as the head football coach," Bowden said Tuesday in a statement released by the school.

Florida State's bowl game has not been determined. The Seminoles are bowl eligible with a 6-6 record.

Bowden won two national titles with Florida State, in 1993 and 1999. Among his top achievement is a string of 14 straight seasons ending in 2000 when the Seminoles won at least 10 games and finished ranked in the top five of the AP poll. Florida State was 152-19-1, an .864 winning percentage, during that span. He has a 315-97-4 record with the Seminoles.

"He set records of achievement on the field that will probably never be equaled," Florida State president T.K. Wetherell said. "Bobby Bowden in many ways became the face of Florida State. It was his sterling personality and character that personified this university."

FSU officials announced after the 2007 season that offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher would succeed Bowden.

The end of the Bowden era has been brewing for years, and the call for change only grew louder this year, when loss after loss, many coming in the final minutes, began piling up. The regular season ended with a sixth straight loss to bitter rival Florida, a 37-10 blowout.

Bowden is a football lifer, who modeled his career after his idol Paul "Bear" Bryant, the legendary Alabama coach who died shortly after he retired in 1982.

"After you retire, there's only one big event left," Bowden has said over the years. "And I ain't ready for that."

Bowden is one of the most quotable coaches the game has known. He relished the spotlight and his folksy approach to the game was well received everywhere he went. It was during the rare losses when Bowden is at his best, relying on his favorite phrase "Dadgumit" when discussing all those wide-right and wide-left field goals against Miami in the late 1980s and early 1990s that knocked so many of his teams out of national title contention.

He also got caught up in NCAA investigations. The school was hit with five years' probation for a 1993 incident when several of his players were given free shoes and sporting goods from a local store. That led to former Florida coach Steve Spurrier calling Florida State "Free Shoes University."

Bowden entered this season faced with losing 14 of his wins as part of sanctions from the NCAA on an academic cheating scandal that involved two dozen football players. The school is appealing.

Bowden and winning, though, go hand in hand. He goes into a final bowl game with a 388-129-4 record.

After his first Florida State team went 5-6 in 1976, the Seminoles never had a losing season. However, the losing became more frequent. Florida State has a 73-42 record from 2001-09.

Among the stars who played for Bowden were Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke, defensive backs Deion Sanders and LeRoy Butler, running back Warrick Dunn, receiver Peter Warrick and nose guard Ron Simmons.

Bowden's national titles came in '93 with Ward guiding the Seminoles to a 12-1 record and a title-clinching win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. The next national crown came six years later, with Weinke and All-American Warrick leading the 'Noles to a perfect 12-0 record capped by a win over Michael Vick and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

The '93 title was perhaps Bowden's greatest moment. It came after near misses in 1987, 1988, 1991 and 1992 -- thanks to missed kicks against Miami. In '87, it was a missed field goal, missed extra point and failed 2-point conversion in a 26-25 loss; in '88 the 'Noles only loss was 31-0 against Miami in the season-opener; in '91 Gerry Thomas was wide right in a 17-16 loss; and in '92, Dan Mowrey was wide right on a game-tying attempt in a 19-16 loss. Wide right III occurred in a 2000 loss against Miami, but Florida State still made it to the title game before losing to Oklahoma 13-2.

Bowden's lone perfect season in '99 made history as the Seminoles became the first team to go wire-to-wire in AP ranked No. 1 from preseason to final poll.

"The first championship was more of a relief," Bowden said. "I think I was able to enjoy the second one a little more."

A few more failed field goals against Miami followed. In 2002, Xavier Beitia was wide left on a last-play, 43-yard attempt in 28-27 loss and Beitia was wide right late in the fourth quarter in a 16-14 Orange Bowl loss to Miami in 2004.

Other than Miami, Bowden's Seminoles were a dominant force. They won the Atlantic Coast Conference 12 times in their first 14 seasons after joining the league in 1992.

Bowden left West Virginia to take over an FSU program in 1976 that had produced just four wins in the three previous seasons. After one losing season, Bowden turned things around with a philosophy of preparing for games like World War II generals prepared for battles.

"You face similar tasks of motivation, preparation, teamwork, discipline," Bowden said. "I probably get the most satisfaction out of putting in the strategies and watching them play out."

Bowden built up Florida State's program by scheduling tough opponents -- usually on the road. He was dubbed "King of the Road" in 1981 after playing consecutive road games at Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and LSU. The Seminoles won three of the five.

Success also brought the spotlight to Bowden's program. First came the "Free Shoes University" incident, followed by top recruit Randy Moss being kicked out of school for smoking marijuana; Warrick's suspension in 1999 for his involvement in a shopping scam; quarterback Adrian McPherson's dismissal in 2002 amid rumors of gambling; and now the cheating scandal.

Bowden, native of Birmingham, Ala., also is the patriarch of college football's most famous coaching family. Sons Tommy and Terry were head coaches -- Tommy at Tulane and Clemson; Terry at Auburn. Another son, Jeff, was FSU's offensive coordinator in 2005-06, but the team had its lowest production in a quarter-century and lost 11 times over those two seasons. He was forced to resign after working for his father for 19 seasons.

Bowden's oldest son, Steve, did not get into coaching but was arrested in 2003 on a multimillion investment scam that cost his father $1.6 million.