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"Everybody Appreciated His Integrity & Honesty The Most"

Long before Florida State joined the ACC in 1990, then-Seminoles football coach Bobby Bowden had become aware of one of his future conference rivals.

Decades earlier, Bowden was the football coach at West Virginia when the Mountaineers played Virginia in 1972

Of those two, only UVa was an ACC member at the time. Bowden, who died earlier this week at 91, was the Seminoles' head coach from 1976-2009.

Surprisingly, he was named ACC coach of the year only twice despite such accomplishments as opening conference play with 29 straight wins, posting a record 173 conference victories, and winning or sharing nine ACC championships.

Four separate Virginia head coaches -- George Welsh, Al Groh, Mike London and Bronco Mendenhall -- have beaten Florida State once. Nobody from UVa has done it twice.

UVa's biggest win in the series was in 1995, when a Cavaliers team led by George Welsh upset then-No. 2 Florida State 33-28 in Charlottesville.

As a coach, Groh's only victory over FSU was in 2005 in Charlottesville.

"It was the same year that they had the anniversary of the '95 game," Groh said in a phone interview this week. "It was kind of ironic that both those wins in Charlottesville occurred with that same team in place, one time as participants and another time as honorees."

In early 1970, after Groh had spent two years at West Point, coaching the Plebe team as a second lieutenant, he was looking for a civilian job. There was an opening at West Virginia as a freshman coach. although freshmen were not eligible at the time.

There was no opening, and Groh did not have any communication with Bowden until the ACC meetings in 2001, Groh's first year as UVa coach.

"He immediately came up to me and said, 'You're here because I made a mistake,'" Groh recalls. "He said, 'If I had hired you back then, you probably wouldn't be here coaching against me.

"From that point on, although we had never really spoken in great depth, that created a little bit of a connection."

Actually, if Goh's New York Jets team hadn't finished 9-7 and missed the NFL playoffs in 2000, he might have stayed in the NFL.

Groh's son, Mike, was the UVa quarterback in the 1995 UVa-FSU game. Current UVa assistant Marques Hagans was the QB when Virginia beat then-No. 4 Florida State at Scott Stadium in 2005, 26-21.

"He had a spectacular game," said Groh, who watched that game on television. "Coach Bowden, in his usual manner, was very gracious at midfield, talking about it and what a fantastic game we played.

"Then, he said, 'We've had quarterbacks play as well against us as your quarterback did, but never for a whole game before."

What about Bowden struck Groh the most?

"His graciousness," Groh said. "Whether it was his players, opposing coaches or whatever, everybody appreciated his integrity and honesty the most."

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