Bobby Bowden at the Quarterback Club
Bobby Bowden had the crowd rolling with laughter Monday at the Knoxville Quarterback Club's weekly luncheon.
The former Florida State football coach told one funny one-liner after another, and several times during the 45-minute speech gave a ringing endorsement of first-year Tennessee coach Derek Dooley.
"I think Derek's going to do a heck of a job," were Bowden's last words to the cheering crowd.
Some of his other comments about Dooley and the task at UT were tempered by words heard all too often.
"It don't happen overnight," Bowden said at one point.
And not much later: "Tennessee's got some catching up to do."
But according to Bowden, UT got the right man when it hired Dooley to replace Lane Kiffin, who left last January for the coaching job at Southern California.
Bowden poked some fun at Kiffin - without naming him - while giving several reasons Dooley should succeed at UT: the facilities, the university, and the tradition.
"I guarantee you, I wish I could recruit to Tennessee," Bowden said. "I'd love that, and I think Derek's going to do a good job because here's what I like about Derek, folks: He is sound and solid. You all don't need a flashy coach."
The crowd laughed and cheered.
"Did I hit a nerve or something?" Bowden replied.
Bowden said one of the biggest reasons he has confidence Dooley will succeed is because he was raised well by his parents, Vince and Barbara Dooley, and Vince Dooley (former Georgia coach) was one of college football's best.
"That's why (Derek will) succeed," Bowden said. "Percentage is on your side. Give him time. Recruit hard."
Bowden, who resigned from Florida State after his 2009 team went 7-6, took a jab at his former school during the speech. Bowden was the 1992 recipient of the Neyland Trophy awarded annually by the Knoxville Quarterback Club in honor of legendary UT coach Gen. Robert Neyland.
"That thing sat on my desk in front of me," Bowden said. "I had two trophies. I had Coach (Frank) Leahy from Notre Dame and I had Bob Neyland sitting right there, man, until they took my desk away. Now it's at the house. Anyway, I'm very proud of that and proud to be here."
There was also a lighthearted jab at Penn State coach Joe Paterno, a reference that started with Bowden saying Derek Dooley would put fundamentally sound teams on the field like Vince Dooley did. Before he resigned, Bowden was vying with Paterno to become college football's winningest coach.
"You play some teams that are really sound, you've got to beat them," Bowden said. "That's hard to do. Joe Peterno's that way. I can't stand him."
More laughter from the crowd.
"I'm kidding about that," Bowden said. "Joe and I are real close. Anyway, I think Derek will be real sound. That's usually the way it goes."
Bowden joked about his early days at Florida State when he couldn't give away complimentary tickets - perhaps in comparison with UT's down ticket sales. Bowden said he once put two leftover tickets on his windshield, trying to give them away while getting a haircut.
"I get a haircut and come back in an hour, and there's six tickets on my window," Bowden said. "You think you've got it bad."
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.