College football lost an icon on Sunday when former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden passed away at 91. The stories flowing in a vast and plentiful for a man who was beloved, colorful and one of the most successful the sport has ever seen.
Yes, he ‘only’ won two national championships. There are a handful of coaches who rung up more than that. But by one metric, Bobby Bowden stands alone among the fraternity of legendary college football coaches.
From 1987-2000, his Seminoles finished in the AP top 5 every season. No one comes even close to that type of sustained success. At 14 straight years with a top 5 team, he not only stands alone, he laps the field.
Here’s another way to put Bowden’s run in perspective. Alabama’s Bear Bryant, universally considered one of the sport’s top coaches, had 12 top-five finishes spread over his 23 years in Tuscaloosa. He never had more than three straight. Neither did Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Urban Meyer, Jimmy Johnson, Joe Paterno and a host of other greats.
Here’s the list of coaches with at least four consecutive top-5 finishes in the AP poll.
|Bobby Bowden||Florida State||14||1987-2000|
|Ara Parseghian||Notre Dame||5||966-70|
|Frank Leahy||Notre Dame||4||1946-49|
* still active
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is in position for his seventh straight top 5 finish this year, which would put him halfway up Mount Bowden and would tie Pete Carroll’s remarkable run at USC. And the Tigers have shown no signs of slowing down either on the recruiting trail or on the field, so maybe Swinney will match the heights of the Florida State legend.
But for now, Bowden’s run stands alone.