Some coaches display their largely conservative instincts in non-financial ways. Jack Del Rio of the NFL's Jaguars led the crowd in the pledge of allegiance at a Sarah Palin rally in Jacksonville last fall. Longtime Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs addressed last summer's Republican National Convention. Lou Holtz fired up congressional Republicans with a pep talk in 2007 and recently flirted with running for Congress in Florida. Ralph Friedgen, the portly University of Maryland coach, good-naturedly called one of his Canadian players a socialist last fall.
Mr. Bowden, a 79-year-old native Alabaman, describes himself as a lifelong conservative who—like many white Southerners of his generation—migrated from the Democratic Party to the GOP a few decades ago. There is, he says, a natural connection between his political and coaching philosophies.
"In coaching, you've got to have more discipline and you've got to be more strict and just conservative, I think. It fits with the Republicans," he said.
Mr. Holtz, who coached Notre Dame to its last national championship in 1988, draws a parallel between the standards and rules that most coaches set for their players and the Republican vision of how American society ought to operate.
"You aren't entitled to anything. You don't inherit anything. You get what you earn—your position on the team," Mr. Holtz said. "You're treated like everybody else. You're held accountable for your actions. You understand that your decisions affect other people on that team…There's winners, there's losers, and there's competitiveness."
Tom Osborne, who coached the Nebraska Cornhuskers for 25 seasons before serving three terms in Congress as a Republican, suggested that football coaches probably look at their own lives and careers as testaments to the conservative principle of self-reliance.
There are some other Democratic coaches, too. Southern California's Pete Carroll, for instance, openly proclaimed his support for Mr. Obama last year, and George Perles, who coached Michigan State from 1983 to 1994 (before helping launch the Motor City Bowl), is waging a long-shot bid for the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Michigan.
And when Mr. Obama was running last year, several African-American coaches—including Ty Willingham (then at the University of Washington), Herm Edwards (then with the Kansas City Chiefs), and Mr. Smith of the Chicago Bears—expressed their support.