Bobby Bowden’s 35 Rules for Success

Bobby BowdenBobby Bowden is one of the winningest coaches in college football history. In his 44 seasons as a head coach, Bowden won two national championships, 12 conference championships, three national Coach of the Year awards, and nearly 400 games.

When this legendary coach’s two sons, Terry and Tommy, became head coaches, Bobby sent them a list of his “35 Rules,” which served as the foundation for his coaching philosophy…


These rules have guided my actions since I first became a Division 1 head coach at West Virginia University in 1970. The rules haven’t changed.

Here they are. You’ll find them heavily peppered with my religious convictions, for which I offer no apology:

1- Get mentally tough or get out of coaching.

2- Fear no man. Fear only God.

3- Face the issue…now!

4- Never allow success to make you lax or undisciplined.

5- Don’t lose your guts. If you believe in your plan, carry it out regardless.

6- You may be wrong, but you are the boss.

7- Even great coaches and great players can make dumb mistakes.

8- “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

9- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…and He will direct your path.” – Prov. 3:5-6

10- “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” – Harry S. Truman

11- “You do not have because you do not ask.” – Jas. 4:2

12- The greatest mistake of all is to continue practicing a mistake.

13- Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Blanton Collier, Paul Brown, and Vince Lombardi all made mistakes, but they shook them off to succeed. At times they were downright losers.

14- “Depend upon the Lord and He will grant your heart’s desire.” – Ps. 37:4

15- Christ calls us to be servants, not masters.

16- “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage. Be not afraid, and do not be dismayed. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Josh. 1:9

17- Why worry…when you can pray?

18- Team rights supercede individual rights.

19- “I will never leave you or forsake you.” – Heb. 13:5

20- God doesn’t sponsor flunkies. If you are one of His, He will want you to succeed.

21- Responsibility without authority will result in failure.

22- “He that has knowledge spares his words…Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise.” – Prov. 17:27-28

23- “Be confident in this one thing—that God, who began a good work in you, will complete it.” – Phil. 1:6

24- “No man who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62

25- When two partners always agree, one of them is not necessary.

26- Good steel must go through the hottest fire.

27- Alibis are just another way to get free of blame by way of excuse.

28- We ask for favors. God gives us opportunities.

29- “Christ was tough-minded but tender-hearted.” – William James

30- If you were being tried in court for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

31- Lord, help my words to be gracious and tender today, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.

32- If a dog won’t do what you teach him to do, then teach him to do what he can do.

33- It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.

34- Learn from others but don’t try imitating them. You’re not them.

35- I don’t believe in playing without a scoreboard.


– Bobby Bowden, from his book The Bowden Way