Bowden: “Nothing else in the world that is everlasting, except Jesus Christ”
Louisiana College athletics director Tim Whitman said the LC football program will make “between $50-75,000” from LC’s inaugural Football Celebration Friday evening that featured longtime Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden and LSU running back Jacob Hester.
Whitman said he made the wide-ranging guess at the revenue generated from the program without having seen all the figures, especially from the silent auction.
Neither of the featured guests required a speaking fee, Whitman said, and he noted different people donated the money necessary to pay for their flights in and out of Alexandria.
“Coach Bowden normally charges $25,000 to speak, but he did it for us at no cost because of his relationship with our people,” Whitman said. “It was wonderful to have two great figures who spoke on our campus about putting God first in their lives. It was great for our town, our football team and our college.”Bowden knows LC football coach Dennis Dunn from his years recruiting players at Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport when Dunn was Evangel’s coach, and he knows Vance Morris, LC’s director of football operations, as a frequent worker at Bowden’s summer football camps. Jim Gladden, the retired coach who was Bowden’s assistant for 25 years, played football with Morris at William Jewell College and is a close friend. He also attended the event.
“I get here every 46 years,” Bowden quipped at the start of his speech during the “grand celebration” at Guinn Auditorium. That event followed a sponsorship dinner and reception at the Granberry Conference Center on campus. Bowden last visited LC in October of 1962 when he coached Howard College (later Samford University) to a 14-12 victory over LC.
Hester’s flight was delayed and he was a late arrival to the reception, which delayed the celebration. Yet, the wait was worth it to the auditorium crowd, which gave him a standing ovation when he was introduced after a Hester highlight film from LSU’s 2007 BCS Championship season.
Hester said the reason for his presence at the event was a favor to Dunn, his coach at Evangel during an era that included three state championships and a national championship.
“I’ve been the recipient of the ‘facemask grab-me’ situations from coach Dunn,” cracked Hester, who took a break from his training routine in Phoenix for next week’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis to be at the event. He and Bowden both took flights back to their destinations shortly after both finished speaking.
Hester recalled how he was “homesick” and unsure if he should even be trying to play for LSU during his first week at LSU as a freshman. “But these folks (gesturing to his family) told me to put God first and I could do anything I wanted to do.” He said God has a plan for everyone.
Bowden warmed the crowd up with some stories, including this gem about his wife, Ann: “When I need to go anywhere within 60 miles of Tallahassee, she comes with me and she does all the driving. I just sit there and hold the wheel.”
Recognizing LC’s efforts to build a successful football program, he said, “I’ve seen people build universities through athletics.”
He gave Notre Dame and Georgia Southern as examples and then told how his success in turning around a tawdry football program at FSU helped the university’s enrollment mushroom.
“In my fourth year, we went to the Orange Bowl,” he said, noting the school had an unprecedented 7,000 applicants for 2,500 openings in the freshman class the next year.
Bowden, a legend who has won 373 career games, tying him for first among major college coaches, has come under fire recently for an academic scandal featuring some of his players. The university self-imposed a two-year probation and a reduction in scholarships in several sports on Friday as punishment.
Bowden cautioned that neither fame nor fortune nor material possessions endure.
“There is nothing else in the world that is everlasting,” he said, “except Jesus Christ.”