Bowden says TSU on right track

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 20, 2003

Bobby Bowden sat on his golf cart Thursday watching the football players learn passing and receiving skills from a host of other assistant coaches.

The patriarch of a football family recognized across the nation has seen plenty of changes to the landscape of college football. He was responsible for many of those changes, his most famous of which was the turn-around of the Florida State football program.

When he took over the reigns of the program in 1976, fans did not fill the 41,000 seat stadium (FSU averaged only 17,000 at home games) and enrollment was low.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

"When I would recruit that first year, the University would send me to see a top-caliber college student and try to get me to recruit that person also," Bowden said. "We had to get our enrollment up."

The solution to the problem for Florida State was the winning program Bowden created. Four years later, after Bowden led FSU to its first undefeated season and an Orange Bowl appearance, student interest exploded in the school.

The following year, the school had 2,500 available enrollment for incoming freshmen and more than 5,000 applicants for those openings.

"It's been that way every year since then," Bowden said. "Now, our applicants outnumber our availability 4-to-1."

Bowden sees several similarities between his experiences at Florida State and the challenge ahead of Troy State. FSU was an independent school for most of its history before joining the ACC in the early 1990s.

"I don't know if you can build a program as an independent anymore," Bowden said. "The only one who can handle that is Notre Dame, and we all know why they can handle it."

Bowden said Troy State is gaining name recognition the same way Florida State did. He saw first hand how FSU grew its academic enrollment on the tails of its athletic success.

Troy State's move to Division I in the early 1990s and its move of its football program to Division I-A were designed to increase name recognition.

"That's the only way to do it," Bowden said. "Schools who don't have football programs can't get students because nobody knows about them."

Troy State will move into the Sunbelt Conference in football in 2004 and will follow with all other sports in 2005.