- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009

Bobby Bowden should have left the college game several years ago.

It serves no purpose to be perceived, fair or not, as a doddering shell of your former self.

That is Bowden in the oversized hat, with no headset, looking to the skies for salvation that never comes.

That is the Bowden who has stayed too long at Florida State.

That is the charge that comes to those college coaching legends who fail to live up to their high standards in their sunset seasons.

Joe Paterno stayed too long at Penn State.

Or so that was the prevailing story line in State College until Paterno wiped the smudges from his Coke-bottle glasses, dusted off his playbook and stuffed an athletic sock into the mouths of his critics by leading the Nittany Lions to an 11-2 record and an appearance in the Rose Bowl last season.

Just win, baby, as Al Davis once put it so eloquently.

That is the antidote to the howls of protest that inevitably descend on those programs accustomed to being ranked in the national polls.

No such turnaround is seemingly within the grasp of Bowden.

His Seminoles have a 2-3 record and look out of it.

And they are not expected to look any better with No. 22 Georgia Tech up next.

Not that Georgia Tech has been the principal focus of the Seminoles this week.

The 79-year-old Bowden has one more year left on his contract, and it has become all the rage in Tallahassee to speculate on whether he will see it to the end.

Or will he gracefully step aside in favor of offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, his anointed successor? Or he will be pushed out the door?

This is the delicate situation confronting the school president and athletic director. They must contend with a legend who has stored up a considerable amount of good will, who seemingly has earned the right to go out on his terms, even if those terms are modest.

Bowden has earned a vote of confidence from the president after the chairman of the university’s board of trustees said the coach should leave after the season.

That show of support has not stopped the reading of tea leaves in Tallahassee, the closed-door meetings and the view the program is stuck in purgatory until Bowden leaves.

The coach-in-waiting plan probably was not a good one, if only because it sends an uncertain message to recruits. And it is a message that opponents undoubtedly have used against Bowden and Florida State along the recruiting trail.

When a coach reaches a certain age, questions about his longevity are destined to surface. Those questions correspond with the Seminoles’ incremental slide in recent seasons, although the Seminoles did post a 9-4 record last season and earned a national ranking after back-to-back 7-6 seasons.

At least Bowden has not lost his good-old-boy wit.

“If I was 40 years old, I’d be shaking in my boots,” he said this week. “But I’m 79. I’ve been through it. Most of my coaching is behind me.”

The impolite would say all his coaching is behind him, which is why there is a sense of urgency among the cash-wielding alumni and boosters in Tallahassee to settle the issue, to present Bowden with a gold watch and get on with the big business of winning football games.

They are tired of being on hold and no matter that Bowden has won two national titles and taken Florida State to 30 bowl games since arriving in 1976.

Jim Smith, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, told the Tallahassee Democrat: “My hope is, frankly, that we’ll go ahead and, if we have to, let the world know that this year will be the end of the Bowden era.”

Tough words. Fighting words.

Bowden is not going down without a fight.

There is a lot of schedule left to silence the critics.

That is the legend’s humbling challenge.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide