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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2007
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Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, left, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban have crossed paths a few times in their lives, but in his 42 years of coaching college football, Bowden has never faced the Crimson Tide. Alabama considered hiring Bowden in 1986 after the departure of Ray Perkins.
Daily photo illustration by Laura Taylor
Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, left, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban have crossed paths a few times in their lives, but in his 42 years of coaching college football, Bowden has never faced the Crimson Tide. Alabama considered hiring Bowden in 1986 after the departure of Ray Perkins.

Class, dignity, character
FSU iconic coach to meet
Tide for 1st time

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — It was supposed to be a joyous occasion. The year was 1973 and after Kent State's season opener, then first-year graduate assistant Nick Saban called his father Nick Sr.

Son told his dad that he loved coaching and that he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps in that profession.

It was the last conversation the two had as a week later, Nick Sr. suffered a heart attack and died.

While he was helping his grieving mother in Fairmont, W.Va., Saban's phone rang. Calling was then Mountaineers head coach Bobby Bowden offering Saban a job as graduate assistant on his staff.

Bowden recruited Saban's home area and Saban's father was a local football coach. When Bowden came to Fairmont to scout the local talent, he would talk to Nick Sr. to get the scoop on the athletes.

"He always had those kids hanging around him, and one of them was his son," Bowden said. "I have known about him since he was a kid and have kept up with his career."

Bowden figured being closer to home could give the young coach a chance to be near his family. Saban turned down the job with Bowden, opting to go back to Kent State, but the gesture still resonates with Alabama's coach as the No. 22 Crimson Tide (3-1, 2-1 SEC) prepares to play Florida State (2-1, 0-1 ACC) on Saturday.

"That's the kind of guy we're talking about here," Saban said. "That's the kind of coach, when I talk about the coaching profession, people doing things the right way, this is the epitome of a man who has done it for a long, long time and done it with a lot of class, a lot of dignity, a lot of character."

As his career as a football coach has progressed, many of Saban's experiences have marked the six degrees of Bowden. Saban knew Bowden's sons Tommy and Terry when all three were coaching at West Virginia together.

During his tenures at LSU and Michigan State, Saban sometimes saw Bowden on the recruiting trail, often smiling and joking around.

"It doesn't make any difference if you're recruiting Michael Clayton, and it's down to Florida State and LSU," Saban said. "He's never any different."

Bowden, 77, recruited many eventual Tide players.

"(During recruiting) He never did remember your name or your face," said Alabama tailback Terry Grant. "It was all the time, each time I came, he was like, 'who are you?' He was like, 'oh, you're that boy from Lumberton.' "

Said defensive end Bobby Greenwood, "He is just a really easy guy to talk to."

On Saturday, Bowden, a Birmingham native, will coach is first game against The University of Alabama in his 42-years of coaching. The game represents a full-circle moment in Bowden's iconic career. In 1986 after Ray Perkins was fired, Bowden was almost selected as Alabama's coach. Instead, the Crimson Tide chose Bill Curry. Since then, Alabama has had seven coaches, while Bowden has built Florida State into one of the most successful programs in college football history.

"I have as much respect for this guy as anybody in this profession relative to what he's accomplished, the kind of person he is in accomplishing it, how he has affected our profession in a positive way," Saban said. "Obviously, his program and his accomplishments speak for themselves."

Alabama vs. Florida State
in Jacksonville, Fla.

Saturday
4 p.m.
WHNT-19

5 things you may not know about FSU football

  • Coach Bobby Bowden has never coached a game against Alabama.

  • FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews won two national championships playing for Alabama and was an All-SEC baseball player with the Tide.

  • Since 1992, Florida State has not finished first in the ACC three times — 2001, 2004 and 2006.

  • Florida State linebackers coach Chuck Amato was Philip Rivers head coach at N.C. State.

  • FSU has two players on its roster from Alabama: offensive lineman Rodney Hudson of B.C. Rain and safety Darius McClure of Minor High.

    Josh Cooper

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