- Associated Press - Sunday, September 4, 2011

GAINESVILLE, FLA. (AP) - Bobby Bowden is getting back into coaching. Well, sort of.

Bowden has made a five-year commitment to coach in the inaugural Battle of Florida, a college all-star game featuring guys who were either born in Florida or played high school or college football in the Sunshine State.

For Bowden, who will turn 82 in November, it will be a welcome change after spending the last year giving motivational speeches and promoting his book, “Called to Coach.” He will return to the coaching ranks in January for a week of practices and charity events.

Florida Atlantic’s Howard Schnellenberger, who helped build Miami into a national power in the early 1980s, will be on the opposite sideline. The inaugural game will be played Jan. 21, 2012, at Florida Atlantic’s new, on-campus stadium.

“I won’t have any pressure in this,” Bowden said Saturday. “I wouldn’t dare let pressure get on me in this game. I want to go out there and do the best I can do and have a good time. If they want to fire me, that’s their business.”

The announcement came in Gainesville before Bowden’s longtime rival, Florida, opened the season against Florida Atlantic. Bowden walked around campus, shook hands with fans wearing orange and blue and answered questions behind a University of Florida podium. It was a strange scene for sure.

“Is it a Florida sign?” Bowden quipped. “I don’t care no more. I told you. I don’t care anymore. The thing I’m enjoying is getting around to other campuses. I spoke at LSU, I spoke at Alabama, I spoke at Tennessee and I’ve been invited to others, Georgia. I’m enjoying getting on their campuses and watching what they do with no pressure.”

Bowden also has visited Israel, Iraq, the Caribbean and Hawaii.

“Ann and I put all our investments in real estate, so I’m speaking every opportunity I get,” said Bowden, whose 377 wins rank him second on the college coaching list.

He would have more, but Bowden and Florida State parted ways following the 2009 season. It was a messy split. Bowden wanted to stick around for another year, but school officials told him he needed to retire or return only as a figurehead. Bowden walked away, and head-coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher took over.

Bowden doesn’t plan to attend a Seminoles game anytime soon and hasn’t spoken to Fisher since FSU’s bowl game in January. That encounter happened only because Bowden was the keynote speaker at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast, and Fisher’s Seminoles were playing in the game.

“We kind of communicate through people or through notes or something like that,” Bowden said. “But it’s not like I call him and want to know what’s going on.”

The Florida State faithful would love to have to Bowden back on the field named after him, but there’s no telling how long it will take to make that happen.

“I don’t plan to anytime soon,” he said. “I’ve always said that when I finished coaching I would try to get out of the other guy’s hair. I followed a good coach one time and all they did was compare everything I did with what he did, ‘Why don’t you do this? Well, this is what he did.’ I always said I would leave time. … I’m going to stay out of it until I feel right about going back.”

Bowden still cares about the Seminoles, though.

He tries to watch all their games on television. He prefers it that way, too, wanting to avoid crowds, having to find a place to park and possibly getting distracted by fans seeking autographs and pictures.

He didn’t have to worry about that in Gainesville. Of course, he also wasn’t able to see Florida State’s opener against Louisiana-Monroe. The game he did catch? South Florida-Notre Dame.

“I (would) get fired for losing to South Florida,” Bowden said. “They still keep their job. I don’t understand that.”

He doesn’t miss being on the sideline, although he acknowledged that the all-star game will give him a taste of his favorite part of coaching.

“This it the first time in 36 games I’ve been to Gainesville and ain’t been nervous,” he said. “I ain’t worried about nothing. … I haven’t missed coaching. I miss the guys. I miss the other coaches, I miss the boys. But as far as being out on the field, no.”

Why not?

“When I quit coaching at Florida State, I did not realize the pressure that comes off your shoulders,” he said. “I didn’t have to worry about a boy going to class. I didn’t have to worry about signing (recruits) over here. I didn’t have to worry about that 2 o’clock phone call at night from the police department. I didn’t have to worry about this or that. You’re just kind of free, you know? (Coaches) ought to try it.”

So what’s the most pressure Bowden faces these days?

“Whether Ann’s going to make me wash the dishes as soon as I get up (from dinner) or give me 15 minutes to fool around,” he said. “That’s about the pressure I’ve got right now.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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