Legendary football coach Bobby Bowden was the offensive coordinator at West Virginia in 1969 when head coach Jim Carlen left to take another head coaching job. Bowden was promoted to head coach in 1970 and had mixed results. But, by 1975, his 9-3 record that season was enough to get him noticed by a struggling program in the south.
Florida State had had some good years in football, but none of them had been in recent years before Bobby Bowden arrived. The previous season, Florida State had posted a 3-8 record. But, a 3-8 record was great compared to the one win season they suffered through in 1974. Florida State had gone winless in 1973. Yea, that’s right, they won 0 games in 11 attempts in 1973. Florida State going 0-11 is hard to believe, but that was the situation that legendary Bobby Bowden stepped into when he became the head honcho at Florida State.
Bobby Bowden didn’t have a set of wings. He didn’t have a halo over his head, either, and in 1974 he had a losing record at West Virginia. There may have been stories going around Tallahassee, Florida that Bowden wasn’t human. They had him on a pedestal and maybe some thought he was a little larger than life. But, he was capable of losing. His first game as the head coach at Florida State was a loss.
Florida State alums may have raised one eyebrow in wonder when the Seminoles lost to Memphis in
Bowden’t first game in 1976. But, both eyebrows went up and probably some tempers were lost the following game when the Seminoles lost to Miami and lost big. Bowden was introduced to the dreaded Hurricanes from Miami in a horrifying manner when the Canes beat the Noles 47-0. Florida State turned the ball over 5 times setting up Miami scores.
Maybe the worst thing about losing to the Hurricanes other than how bad the score was, could have been that Miami was horrible in 1976. They went on to finish with a 3-8 record and their time had not come yet.
The situation only got worse for Bowden as his Seminoles had 4th ranked Oklahoma up next. It was also their third game in a row on the road, which may have been a good thing.
The Seminoles played better against Oklahoma and only came out losing 9-24. There’s no such thing as morale victories, yes, but it beats losing 0-47 to a bad team.
Bobby Bowden and his Seminoles finally got a home game the following week and after a less than exciting 0-3 start, there were still some 30,000 fans there to cheer them on. Most of those fans must have been wanting to hit the exits when lowly Kansas State of the old Big 8 Conference took a 10-0
lead into the dressing room at half time.
It appeared as if Bowden’s Noles were off to an 0-4 start. It was only natural that fans began to question whether Bobby Bowden was the right hire and that seems hilarious to think of now. But, Average Joe fan has a short memory, little vision and patience, plus a short fuse. The Seminoles came out after halftime and put up 20 points and came out with their first win under Bobby Bowden.
It would be the first of many wins.
A trip to Boston to take on the 13th ranked Eagles was next up for Bowden’s bunch as the situation didn’t get any easier. But, after getting down again 0-6, the Seminoles came back and gave Boston College a pretty good whipping, 28-9.
A nice, big crowd of 42,000 plus came out to see Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles take on the Florida Gators for the first time. The Gators were ranked 12th and came in with a 3-1 record, so far.
Again, no morale victories, but some people think this was one of the greatest games in the history of the rivalry between these two schools. The game ended with Florida State inside the Gator 10 yard line throwing for the end zone in a wild 33-26 Florida Gators win.
Seminole quarterback Jimmy Black was 14 out of 17 passing on the day for over 200 yards in his best game of the season, to that point.
Tough losses to Auburn and Clemson were next. Both were having an unusually bad season and they both won 3 games each in 1976. Florida State just missed on golden opportunities for wins.
The Seminoles dropped to 2-6 on the year,
But, there’s no quit in Bobby Bowden and he didn’t let his team quit, either. The last three games of the year were against Southern Miss, North Texas and Virginia Tech and the Seminoles swept them to finish the season with a 5-6 record.
A 5-6 record in 1976 would be Bobby Bowden’s one and only losing record at Florida State.
Bowden and his staff hit the ground running and recruited an outstanding 1977 recruiting class which included the great Ron Simmons, Bobby Butler, Monk Bonasorte, Ken Lanier, Homes Johnson and Rick Stockstill to name a few. They even went into Canada and signed Mitchell Chuvalo and while he did not work out, it just shows how dedicated this coaching staff was to improving.
Get ready America, the Florida State Seminoles were coming. Love them, or hate them, they became one of the most feared schools in the nation.
This is part of my first chapter of my book entitled Trifecta of Hate which is about the three way rivalry between the three big Florida schools which sort of dominated college football from 1983 until around 2008 to 2013. Between the three of them, the Florida schools won an incredible 11 national titles
That was done with great coaching and solid recruits from Florida, plus all over America.