Bobby Bowden to coach 'bowl' game for U.S. soldiers
Bobby Bowden will coach one more game, on a road trip like none he's ever experienced, and where players on both sides of the field are on the same team. The former Florida State University coach will be among a group of football greats traveling to an undisclosed American military installation in the Persian Gulf next month for a flag football game with soldiers, called the Connect to Home Bowl. Bowden asked to go this year after following last season's inaugural event closely, and event organizers happily accepted. "It's very exciting ... because there couldn't be a better cause," the 81-year-old Bowden told The Associated Press. "My belief in our military and our men that are over there, what they're going through, that's what means as much as anything to me."Highlights from the game will be aired during halftime of the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1. The event is sponsored by Tostitos and the USO, and Bowden is just one of several football stars making the trip. College Football Hall of Famer Gene Stallings will coach the other team, and former players who are taking part on the trip include Jim Kelly, Rodney Peete, LaVar Arrington, Zach Thomas, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Antonio Freeman, Ron Dayne and Jevon Kearse. The group will travel to the selected base for a few days in December."You know, you kind of like to give back," Bowden said. "That's what we're doing." Officials from Tostitos came up with the idea last year when trying to tie bowl season into some sort of tribute to soldiers. The USO benefits from getting exposure during prime time of a Bowl Championship Series game. "For many of our troops serving overseas, watching college football is a special way to reconnect with home -from the coin toss to the marching bands to seeing the action on the field," said Justin Lambeth, Frito-Lay's vice president of marketing. It's the second time a Bowden has been part of the event. Terry Bowden was one of the coaches selected to go to Iraq last season, and the commitment was made before Florida State was selected to play in the Gator Bowl - his father's final game with the Seminoles. The game in Iraq was the same day. Bobby Bowden insisted his son be in Iraq, and not change plans just to be there for his finale. "He told me it was a great experience," Bowden said. "He wouldn't trade anything for it. The closest I have come to something like this, which really is not close, is they used to invite college coaches over to Europe, to Germany and England, to put on coaching clinics at some bases. But nothing like this." Bowden officially left Florida State with 377 wins, a figure that takes away 12 victories the NCAA ordered vacated following an academic scandal that affected the eligibility of some players. Bowden also won 22 games at South Georgia College, a figure he counts on his own personal total. So by his math, including the vacated wins, he won 411 games in college football. "When I die, I'm putting on my tombstone 411," Bowden said. "They can't do a thing about it." He might get to say he won 412 in a few weeks, even if he has to fly halfway around the world first. "I never thought of that," Bowden said.