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Hidden History: Florida State vs Samford

Samford, aka Howard, is the cradle of FSU’s national championship coaches.

North Carolina State v Florida State Photo by Jeff Gammons/Getty Images

In case you missed the first one last week, Hidden History is a new series here at TN. Each week we will dust off the history books and take a peek back in time at some of the more overlooked games or aspects of the gridiron history between Florida State and its opponent.

This week, Florida State welcomes the Samford Bulldogs to Doak Campbell Stadium, a program to which the Seminoles owe a great deal of appreciation.

Basic Facts:

All-time series record: FSU leads 2-0

First meeting: 1950; Doak Campbell Stadium; FSU won 20-6

Most recent meeting: 2010; Doak Campbell Stadium; FSU won 59-6

Dixieland Delight

When the Florida State College for Women was returned to co-educational status in 1947 by the Florida Legislature, the newly designated Florida State University needed a home for its fledgling sports programs. Joining forces with other southern institutions, FSU and Samford—then known as Howard College—were two of the charter members of the Dixie Conference, formed in 1948. Among the founding principles of the Dixie Conference was complete amateurism, not even providing athletic scholarships.

From 1948-1950, Florida State would win the first three Dixie Conference championships in football, not losing a single game in conference play. In fact, the 1950 season would be FSU’s first perfect season on the gridiron, as the team finished 8-0, including a win over Howard College.

After the 1950 season, FSU decided to leave the Dixie Conference, in large part because of their desire to begin offering athletic scholarships. Florida State’s football team would play as an independent for the next 41 years before joining the Atlantic Coast Conference prior to the 1992 season.

Cradle of (FSU) Coaches:

Incredibly, both of FSU’s national championship coaches played football for, and got their coaching start, at Samford.

Bobby Bowden transferred to Howard in 1949 after spending a year in Tuscaloosa on the Alabama freshman team. After three years of playing quarterback and running back, including earning Little All-America honors in 1952, Bowden began serving as an assistant football coach and head track and field coach for the Bulldogs in 1954. Following a brief stint as Athletic Director and football coach at South Georgia State College, Bowden returned to Birmingham as Howard’s head football coach in 1959. Over the next four years he led Howard to a 31-6 record, with his .838 winning percentage still the best in school history.

His performance caught the eye of an innovative coach in Tallahassee by the name of Bill Peterson, and in 1963 Bowden joined Coach Pete’s staff as the wide receiver’s coach. 50 years later, Bowden arrived back on campus in Birmingham, this time taking a permanent place outside Seibert Stadium.

Two years after Bowden joined Peterson’s staff in Tallahassee, John James “Jimbo” Fisher was born. Fisher began his collegiate career quarterbacking under the tutelage of Terry Bowden at Salem College in West Virginia. When Bowden accepted a position at Samford in 1987, Fisher transferred to Samford as well. The move paid off, as Fisher went on to win the 1987 Division III National Player of the Year.

Following a season in the Arena Football League playing for the Chicago Bruisers, Fisher hung up his cleats and picked up his whistle, joining Bowden’s staff at Samford as the QB coach. Roughly two decades later, Fisher would start coaching QBs for the elder Bowden at FSU.

Both Fisher and (Bobby) Bowden are members of the Samford University Athletics Hall of Fame.

Did You Know?

Bobby Bowden played extensively against Florida State in that 1950 showdown. Complete stats have proved difficult to find, but Bowden played QB and RB for the Bulldogs, hitting several receivers to set up Howard’s only score of the night in the first quarter, but also throwing an interception.

FSU’s Mike Sellers rushed for 130 yards and two scores in the contest, just two yards short of breaking the school record set during the 1949 season.

Record Watch:

Samford hasn’t scored more than six points against FSU in a single game. Will that record be broken on Saturday?