Stockstill emerging as thought leader.

Stockstill emerging as thought leader.

If you've ever had the privilege to hear Bobby Bowden speak, particularly a sermon that he's been known to deliver at churches across the south over the year's you may have heard his testament of faith.

It starts off a little something like this. Bowden recalls a time when a preacher directed his attention to the pew where he, his wife and his six kids were sitting. The question is whether or not he would be willing to walk across a 40-foot beam there in the church for $20. Being agreeable to that, the question then turns to whether he would do the same thing for $20 if the beam was across the Twin Towers at 110 stories high. "No way," says Bowden. But then it's put to him if he would do it to save one of his kids. To that Bowden responds, "Which one?"

Bowden's legacy beyond his wins and losses is one as a key opinion and thought leader in life's lessons. He was and still is a sought after speaker for his southern charm and wit in telling his own life story. But he was also a monumental figure as an opinion leader in college football on everything from recruiting to the concept of "pay for play."

And his perspectives on college football are clearly still relative after being tracked down and questioned – on rumors that Florida State might be headed to the SEC – by reporters at a function in Dothan, Ala., last weekend.

So, it is interesting and perhaps not surprising that Middle Tennessee's head football coach Rick Stockstill, a disciple of Bowden who also was an understudy to the likes of names like Holtz and Spurrier, is beginning to emerge as a key opinion leader among his peers.

Stockstill, who has routinely professed Bowden as his mentor and most influential figure, has been doing a little more than recruiting and fine-tuning his playbooks over the summer.

First, came Stockstill's perspective on the postseason debate. During the Sun Belt Conference's media tour, Stockstill said he favored the bowl system as a "traditionalist."

Not long after, Stockstill weighed in on the "pay-for-play" debate with his own ideology with respect to providing additional financial incentives to athletes based on academic performance and staying clear of off-field troubles.

Stockstill's comments were carried nationally by USA Today. It's an issue that Bowden, ironically, addressed as far back as 1994 in comments to the Atlanta Journal Constitution when he offered his opinion on the need to identify ways to better provide financial assistance to athletes.

Stockstill is also one of 59 coaches that votes in the USA Today Coaches poll.

As Stockstill's stock continues to climb (pun intended), he's going to be sought out as an emerging thought leader in college football much like Bowden was at FSU. About the only thing missing from Stockstill's repertoire at this point is the "dadgum" perfected by Bowden.

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