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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Bowden has as long as he dadgum well wants
By GARY SHELTON
Published November 1, 2006
The way I figure it, Bobby Bowden is in trouble.
If he loses Saturday, and for the 111 consecutive Saturdays afterward, if he loses every game between now and his 97th birthday, then he’s gonna hear about it.
If Bowden’s offense doesn’t score a point between now and 2011, if he wears an Urban Meyer T-shirt on a recruiting trip, and if he writes a tell-all book that suggests he was on steroids during his two championship seasons, he’s going to be in hot water.
If he petitions the NCAA so he can bring back Chris Rix as quarterback, if his players start to line up backward, if he extends Jeff Bowden’s contract and brings in Tommy Bowden, Terry Bowden, golfer Craig Bowden and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden to complete his staff, then it will be time to hand him a sweater and park him on the porch.
Until then, here’s a bit of advice for the pinheads who want Bowden out as coach of the FSU Seminoles: Oh, shut up.
It doesn’t matter what your name is. When you talk about football at FSU, Bowden is more important than you are. Got it?
Sometimes, the noise that surrounds college football is just silly. Sometimes it’s stupid and sometimes it’s wrong and sometimes it’s mean. Most often, it says more about the speaker than the subject.
The growing discontentment with Bowden, college football’s favorite uncle, is a little bit of all of that. Also, it’s undignified. After watching 30 years of Bowden’s dignity, you might have thought a little more of it would have worn off.
Look, if you want to criticize Bowden, that’s fair. The passion of college football has brought fame and fortune to Bowden, and he certainly has received his share of praise along the way.
So if you want to rip the play-calling or question the recruiting or scoff at the idea of FSU struggling to reach to reach the Meineke Car Care Bowl, that’s fine. Bowden won’t agree, but yeah, criticizing Jeff is fair game, too.
In other words, when losing gets old, it’s okay to notice the guy in charge is getting there, too. But when fans start talking about planting Bowden out in the Sod Cemetery, they need to keep this in mind:
Bowden isn’t up for re-election. He has earned the right to exit when he wants, and if every game between now and then is hard for the critics to watch, well, tough.
Yeah, yeah. Last year was plain, and this year was ugly and as for next year, who knows? Polls show that most FSU fans still support Bowden, but the approval rating isn’t as large as you might think.
But here’s the question: Does FSU really want to be known as the institution that would push Bobby Bowden out the door? Do fans want their school to be known as one of those places where the rabble runs things?
Here’s a question: What are the odds the next coach is better than Bowden?
Here’s another: What are the odds he’s worse?
Look around. From all indications, we have run out of coaches. Are you going to bring in Chuck Amato? Ron Zook? Larry Coker? How about Darrell Mudra? He isn’t busy.
And that’s what you have to keep in mind here. Before Bowden, FSU had won four games in three years. The guy opened the store. He has a right to close it when he wants.
What the noise does remind you, and perhaps him, is this: For coaches, the final chapter is rarely a good one.
It ended badly for Woody Hayes, who punched his own legacy. It ended badly for Tom Landry, who was pushed over the side, and for Don Shula, who was nudged toward the exit. By and large, coaches do not ride off into the sunset on the shoulders of their players.
Like most of us, I would like to see Bowden win a few more games, too. The Seminoles still recruit blue-chippers, but in the old days, that seemed to translate into first-round draft picks a lot more often.
As for Jeff, well, Bowden has earned the right to pick his employees, too. But here’s the thing: I’m stunned Jeff hasn’t left on his own just to get his father away from the noise.
Terry once coached at Samford and Tommy at Tulane. So why doesn’t Jeff find himself a program such as Florida International to prove himself?
In the meantime, FSU remains the Bobby Bowden Show. When a man has created a program, when he has provided every highlight, he is above some snipe with a Web site.
Barring a scandal, the guy has earned tenure.
Or ten years, if he prefers.
Gary Shelton can be reached at 727-893-8805 or at Shelton@sptimes.com.