Florida State has been in the news a lot lately, but unfortunately it has nothing to do with the players or the performance on the field. It’s all about the competence of Bobby Bowden as a football coach. The Seminoles are 2-3 on season, including a disgraceful 0-2 in ACC play. The ACC is no SEC or Big 10 or Big 12, it’s full of overrated teams with reputations based on their past, not current play. The Seminoles record is where it should be, based on the talent they have. The problem is the distraction Bowden is providing his program.
Bowden will forever be a legend in Tallahassee for winning national titles in 1993 and 1999. He’s won a lot of Bowl games too, notching 11 W’s since 1991. But take a closer look at his record and you’ll see that he hasn’t accomplished much in the past decade since his last title. Since 2000, his teams have averaged 4.2 losses per full season (this year’s record not factored in). In the current BCS climate, 1 loss can ruin a season and 2 surely ends one. An average of 4 losses per season is not acceptable for a team that is typically a strong recruiter and ranks well in preseason polls. Take into account they play in the woeful ACC, 4 losses is completely unacceptable. The conference is weak, with only Virginia Tech being a consistent BCS bowl team.
Looking outside of their record, let’s examine what he brings to the program. Experience? Yup, few can compare with his. Knowledge? Up for debate, as his coordinators have been gaining more and more responsibility over the years. This isn’t to say he’s not smart, but there’s no telling how much he has to do directly with gameplanning these days. Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher was signed to a contract a couple years back, giving him the head coaching gig when Ol’ Bobby steps aside. apparently, there’s a clause in the contract that pays Fisher $5 million if he isn’t the coach by 2011. This is fine, if they were producing and the ballcoach was looking to wrap up his career. In fact, at the time it was signed, it looked like a coup by FSU because they locked up a talented younger coach and had a contingency plan in place for the day that Bowden called it a career. Recruiting-wise, it was supposed to reassure athletes that they wouldn’t be subject to not knowing who their coach would be should the 70+ year old head coach retired. Kids sign up for 4 years of football at a school, and part of a recruitment pitch is the coach being there for your entire ride (thus the ridiculous and overinflated 10 year contracts many college football coaches receive).
But as Fisher has gained this future guarantee, it’s been said that he’s also taken over control of the team and that he often doesn’t consult Bowden about team issues because he thinks it’s “his team”. Sure, this might be a problem with Fisher, not Bowden, but let me explain. Bobby’s more or less backed himself into a lame-duck corner by not committing to a long-term deal, only having a contract with apparently infinite one year options he can exercise each year. With the uncertainty regarding his contact, the school had to lock up an heir apparent for recruiting purposes.
Furthermore, it appears that Bowden has lost control over his team in recent years. He’s had players miss games for testing positive for drugs (WR Parker), fighting, and academic cheating scandals. He had to vacate victories from ’06 and ’07. Of course, players are responsible for their actions, but the coach needs to be able to judge character in addition to talent when recruiting.
Looking at this season alone, Bowden surely isn’t inspiring his team. After the loss to the University of Southern Florida, Bowden laughed during his post-game press conference while he justified why his team lost. “When they’re playing Western Kentucky, Wofford, and Charleston, they beat the heck out of ’em. It’s hard, you’re just not sure of the people they’re playing, but (chuckling) they’re good, they beat the heck out of us,” Bowden said, “They whupped us.” Is this an appropriate response when losing to a small school, at home, with a freshman quarterback, while rushing for only 18 yards? The answer ought to be no. To sit there and chuckle about the apparent fact that he overlooked this team because of who they’ve played previously is downright shameful.
Then there was the drama unfolding this past week. The chairman of FSU’s board of trustees was reported to have been working behind the scenes to remove Bowden and appoint Fisher head coach this season. And if Bowden didn’t step aside, it was rumored that they would have amended Fisher’s contract to give him authority to make personnel decisions once the season was over, thus allowing him to remove Bowden from his post. This was denied, but not convincingly.
ESPN is running an interview with Bowden this weekend, asking him about the scandals. He basically shrugs it off, saying he takes it “year by year” because of his contact options and “when you’re 40, you’re like ‘Oh my god’ but I’m 79, what do I have to lose?” That statement right there is the essence of what is wrong with Florida State right now. He doesn’t have anything to lose, he’s not hungry, and he’s not leading the team to their full potential. It’s time for a change, as it has been for a while. It’s just too bad that FSU’s 2009 season had to be wasted to find that out. It’s never nice to see a legend leave, or be forced out, but sometimes you have to save a man from himself. Be it pride, stubbornness, whatever, Bowden should have been gone a while ago. Now he’s hurting the program he’s spent the past 33 years to build. It’s time to go Bobby, do it for your team.