When he was named the football coach at Auburn in 1992, 36-year-old Terry Bowden would brag to his old man about what the hiring meant.
But the old man always had a quick retort.
“He’d brag about being one of the youngest coaches in Division I. I told him, it’s not about doing it when you’re young, it’s about doing it when you’re old,” Florida State coach and Terry’s dad Bobby Bowden said.
At 78-years-old, Bobby Bowden is a life study in that adage. He’s been coaching for 48 years. And his words of wisdom for his son have turned into a lesson hard-learned. Terry Bowden, out of coaching since 1998, has done everything but put an ad on Craig’s List to try to earn another head coaching job.
FSU’s venerable Bowden is one of two bastions of coaching longevity on display when the Seminoles and Kentucky battle in today’s Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.
Across the sideline from Bowden will be Rich Brooks, who’s no spring chicken at 67-years-old. In a profession that continues to put a relentless emphasis on youth, Bowden and Brooks have shown the unique ability run a program and maintain AARP eligibility at the same time.
Brooks has a coaching career that began in 1963. His list of accomplishments may not be as long or as illustrious as Bowden, who has more wins than anyone in the history of the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A). Bowden’s FSU teams have been to 26 consecutive bowl games, while Kentucky has only seen 12 in its history.
But Brooks has enjoyed a renaissance of late. If Kentucky is able to win today, it would be the first back-to-back bowl wins for the Wildcats in 55 years.
“This is our 12th bowl game in the history of the school,” Brooks said. “We’d have to double that number to catch Bobby. To win it would just be unbelievable to reward these seniors who have been through some of the difficult, dark times of Kentucky football.”
As UK looks to make history by winning the Music City Bowl for the second straight year, and FSU looks to win despite being without 36 players from its roster who were ruled ineligible following an online course cheating scandal, one thing remains clear: this is no swan song for Bowden or Brooks.
Neither coach seems to be hedging towards retirement anytime soon. At Sunday’s Music City Bowl news conference, Brooks reaffirmed the claim he made the day he was hired. That’s when he said he wanted to finish as the longest-tenured coach in UK history. He’ll need five more years to accomplish that feat.
Bowden, on the other hand, with all 373 of his career wins, said he’s no longer in the business of signing five-year extensions.
“Now I sign a one-year deal and renew at the end of the season,” Bowden said. “I mean would anybody believe it if I was still doing this five years from now?”
Brooks interrupted and raised his hand. “I would,” he said.