I’ve been around Bobby Bowden since 1978. I’ve seen him skinny and not-so-skinny. Happy and sad, after wins and losses. I’ve been with him after “Wide Right” (I and II) and “Wide Left.” Big wins, and big losses. “Echo of the whistle” and all the rest. He’s consistent, kind, thoughtful and honest. He’s everything you’d want in a friend, a coach, a confidant and a leader.
And I’ve seen him backed into a corner. And while he’s not mean, there’s no question that look in his eye changes. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly and if you’re on the attack, he’s willing to defend.
Last year I was in Tallahassee on the day Bowden found out his team had let him down. Cheated on an on-line exam and a lot of the guys were going to be ineligible. He walked by me, got in his golf cart after practice and barely acknowledged me. But the next time I saw him, he came right up to me and apologized for walking past me in Tallahassee saying, “I had just found out about that thing,” while grabbing me by the back of the neck and pulling me close.
I know that sounds hokey, but I like that. I like genuine affection and people who aren’t afraid to show it. So yes, I like Bobby Bowden. A lot. So my advice to those who think he should quite, the game has passed him by, and ask him to step down: Get off his back.
I’ve said for a while that I don’t think Bowden has the energy to discipline a large group of young men, especially those with the personalities necessary to be a successful college football team. And while he’s loyal to his staff, he might be loyal to a fault. That’s where part of his problem is in Tallahassee this year.
The rift on his staff between Jimbo Fischer and Chuck Amato also apparently includes Mickey Andrews, Rick Trickett and Lawrence Dawsey. Fischer might be the “coach in waiting” but apparently Bowden wasn’t consulted about that at all. He was way in when it came to hiring Fisher as the offensive coordinator but apparently nobody asked Bowden about naming Fisher the “coach in waiting.” The whole $5 million guarantee before 2011 was the administration’s idea without Bowden’s input.
So it’s no wonder that there’s a rift on the staff.
Apparently there will be a deal for Fisher to be the Head Coach with all of the authority without the title. That might happen as early as the end of this season with Fisher running recruiting, practice schedules and the coaching staff. Bowden would remain the Head Coach. That doesn’t sound like it would work, unless of course, Bowden bought into the idea.
He said on Tuesday that he’d like to go out on top and that “I’ve been hearing it since I turned 65.” After hearing that, it’s pretty clear that Bowden wants to get the Seminoles on the right track before he steps down. And at 2-4, they’re not going in the right direction right now. So expect Bobby to be in charge for another couple of years.
And yes, I do think he’s in charge.
There’s a rumor that Bowden tells friends that he doesn’t want to retire because he’s afraid he’ll die. That is what happened to Bear Bryant, but it’s hard to compare the two men in any way except football wins. Their lifestyles have been very different.
Bowden, all by himself, makes FSU relevant, even at 2-4. And he’ll stay that way until he quits.
When he’s ready.