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Bobby Bowden has pancreatic cancer, son says

ULM head coach Terry Bowden says family has 'been preparing for this'
Bobby Bowden, former Florida State Seminoles head football coach, in August 2010
Posted at 4:59 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 19:26:57-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The son of former Florida State head football coach Bobby Bowden revealed Thursday that his father has pancreatic cancer.

Terry Bowden, who is currently the head coach at ULM, told reporters at the Sun Belt Conference media day in New Orleans that the family has known for about 10 days.

"We've been preparing for this," Terry Bowden told reporters. "We know when you have pancreatic cancer, which is what the disease is, you're probably talking months, not years, so we know that. We just think we've got some more good days ahead and we're going to enjoy those together."

The elder Bowden, 91, told the Tallahassee Democrat on Wednesday that he had a terminal medical condition, although he didn't publicly disclose his condition.

"I've always tried to serve God's purpose for my life, on and off the field, and I am prepared for what is to come," Bowden told the newspaper. "My wife Ann and our family have been life's greatest blessing. I am at peace."

Bowden coached the Seminoles from 1976-2009, winning 12 Atlantic Coast Conference championships and two national titles during his 34 seasons at FSU.

Florida State Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden hugged after beating Nebraska in Orange Bowl to win 1993 national championship
Florida State head football coach Bobby Bowden receives a congratulatory hug after the Seminoles defeated Nebraska 18-16 in the Orange Bowl, Jan. 1, 1994, in Miami.

The Seminoles won 10 or more games and finished among the top five in the final rankings for 14 straight seasons under Bowden from 1987-2000. During that span, FSU won national championships in 1993 and 1999 and played for three others.

Bowden was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

His 377 victories -- 304 of them at FSU -- are second-most in NCAA Division I history.

Second-year Florida State head coach Mike Norvell spoke fondly of Bowden-coached teams to reporters at Thursday's ACC kickoff event.

"They played for something bigger than themselves," Norvell said. "There was a standard of how they showed up each and every day and trying to be the best version of who they were and what they represented, and you see that now. You see that with these former players who have gone on and are making incredible impacts."

Norvell said "one of the greatest experiences" of his coaching career was meeting with Bowden last spring and introducing him to the current coaching staff.

"I was able to see the faces of (assistant coaches and former players) Ron Dugans and Odell Haggins, and when I saw their faces when their coach walked in, that told me everything I ever needed to know about coach Bobby Bowden," Norvell said.

Terry Bowden asked that his father's fans "respect the fact he needs to rest when he's up."

Florida State Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden with sons Tommy, Jeff and Terry in 1982
Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden poses for a photograph with sons Tommy, Jeff and Terry in 1982.

"He doesn't need a lot of phone calls or a lot of people talking on the phone," the younger Bowden said. "You know my dad, he has never turned down an interview in his life. He'll be on his deathbed (doing) an interview the last minute he does it. But that's Bobby Bowden."

Bowden overcame a bout with coronavirus last year, spending a week in a Tallahassee hospital.

Otherwise, Bowden has stayed busy since retiring, frequently appearing as a motivational speaker at religious and athletic functions.

In April, Bowden appeared with Gov. Ron DeSantis, who presented him with the inaugural Florida Medal of Freedom, a civilian award that recognizes individuals who have greatly contributed to the state.

He was also there when Terry Bowden was introduced as the new ULM head coach in January.