Bowden Returns

  • March 06, 2010 09:54 AM
  • |
Posted by John Antonik on Saturday, March 3, 2010
(9:55 am)

Bobby Bowden was back in Morgantown on Thursday evening for a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) fundraiser at the Waterfront Place Hotel.

  Bobby Bowden poses with some of his former West Virginia players at the Waterfront Place Hotel on Thursday, March 3.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo

West Virginia's former football coach was the featured speaker at the annual event, MC'd by Tony Caridi. Bowden, wearing a brown suit, a light blue shirt and a striped tie, spoke to a large group of former WVU players and FCA members about his Christian faith.

Shuffling 3x5 index cards, Bowden also retold many of the humorous stories that he has refined through many years of banquet speaking.

One concerned former WVU quarterback Mike Sherwood. Bowden said Sherwood was struggling mightily with interceptions during a game early in his playing career.

"After about the third interception our great wide receiver Oscar Patrick came off the field and said to Mike, 'Tell me which safety you are going to throw the ball to so I can go and intercept it,'" said Bowden to laugher.

The coach recalled taking a pair of shoes to a downtown shoe shop to be polished right before he left to take the Florida State job in 1976. He had forgotten about those shoes and about 10 years later in 1986, he was asked to come back to Morgantown for a speaking engagement. He retrieved one of his warm winter suits from his closet and discovered that old, yellowing ticket in the side pocket.

So he decided to pay a visit to the shoe store to finally pick up his shoes.

"Well, sure enough, the shoe shop was still there. I walked in and handed the gentleman my old crinkly ticket and asked him if my shoes were ready," said Bowden.

"The man takes the ticket and walks to a room behind the counter and I can hear some boxes being shuffled and so forth," Bowden continued. "Well, finally, the man comes back out and he tells me, 'Oh yes, sir, your shoes will be ready next Thursday.'"


Bowden told the story about the time he stayed in the infamous Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., with his wife Ann. Of course, it was the bugging of the Watergate that began the demise of Richard Nixon's presidency.

"We get into the room and Ann asks me, 'Do you think the room is bugged?'" said Bowden. "I said, 'Nah, it's not bugged.' And then I began thinking to myself, 'Could it be bugged?'"

So Bowden checked the telephone, the curtains, looked underneath the bed and examined the room thoroughly. Then he saw a rug lying next to their bed that seemed to be a little uneven.

He lifted up the rug and discovered a metal plate with four screws attached to it, so he decided to unscrew the plate to see what was underneath it.

"Nothing," he said. "I put the screws back in and we went to sleep."

The next morning Bowden went downstairs to check out of the hotel.

"How was your evening, Mr. Bowden?" the hotel receptionist asked.

"Wonderful," he replied. "That was the best night of sleep I've had in months. How was your evening?"

"Well, we had a little disturbance on a floor below yours," she answered. "It seems someone unscrewed a chandelier and it came crashing down to the floor!"

More laughter.

Bowden talked about growing up in the Depression era. His father had a job as a bank teller and soon the family began taking in relatives as they began losing their jobs.

"My granddaddy slept in a twin bed right next to mine and later, an uncle also lived with us," said Bowden. "Just about all of the years I lived at home I slept with someone.

"Then later when I got married, I always seemed to be sleeping alone," Bowden added.

Bobby told the group the two places he always enjoys returning to are his native Alabama and West Virginia.

"We spent 10 years of our life here," he said. "I have six children, four of whom are WVU graduates. You ask me where I'm from I'll say Alabama. If you ask my children where they're from they'll say, 'Oh, we're from West Virginia.' The most formative years of their life were right here. We're proud of that."


We received the sad news that Ken Alessi, a two-year letterman at WVU in 1951-52, died of natural causes last week in his native Yorkville, Ohio. Alessi established a national high school scoring record while playing at Yorkville High School before attending WVU in 1950. His best season for the Mountaineers came in 1951 when he averaged 10.1 points per game.

Alessi was 79.


It looks like women's track coach Sean Cleary will have four individual qualifiers and a relay to take to this year's NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.

The women's swimming team, coached by Vic Riggs, will also be sending five qualifiers to nationals this year.

I can recall many years when both sports didn't have a single national qualifier.

Great job by both programs!


Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said he can't wait for freshmen quarterbacks Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson to get to Morgantown. There is a very good possibility both QBs will be No. 2 and 3 on the depth chart this year by default.

Plus, sophomore quarterback Geno Smith will be limited this spring with a foot injury, which is a cause for concern among West Virginia's offensive coaches. Smith has game experience but has not gone through spring drills where a player gets the opportunity to learn the finer points of Jeff Mullen's offense.

Think about this: Regardless of who the starter is against Coastal Carolina next September, Mullen will be working with his third different starting quarterback since arriving at WVU three years ago.


It speaks highly of the job Mike Carey has done this year to earn Big East co-coach of the year honors along with Connecticut's Geno Auriemma.

That's because Auriemma's Huskies are chasing NCAA history. A win on Sunday in the quarterfinal round of the Big East tournament will give UConn 70 consecutive wins to tie the NCAA record set by Auriemma's Husky teams from 2001 to 2003.

The next target for Connecticut will be UCLA's record 88 straight wins achieved from 1971 to 1974.

That could happen next year.


Here is a nice story on Super Steve Slaton's recovery from off-season neck surgery: http://espn.go.com/blog/afcsouth/post/_/id/9892/texans-slaton-ready-for-a-compliment

After rushing for nearly 1,200 yards as rookie, Slaton had just 437 yards and three touchdowns last year in 2009, fumbling seven times. Slaton is hoping for a bounce back year in 2010.

Have a great weekend!