Florida State offensive coordinator Bowden resigns
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For months, Florida State fans have clamored for the ouster of offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden, blaming him for the team's woes.
Tuesday, Bowden ended the debate, resigning just three days after the Seminoles were shut out for the first time in 233 games.
His resignation will take effect at season's end, said athletic director David Hart Jr. said. Then, Bowden, the youngest son of Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden, will be reassigned outside the athletic department until his contract expires in August 2007.
"I believe in my heart that for Bobby Bowden this is the decision that I need to make," Jeff Bowden said. "I could not be happier that I had this opportunity. But it's just time for me to move on."
The leading candidate to replace Bowden is Valdosta State coach Chris Hatcher, a source close to Bobby Bowden told ESPN's Joe Schad. Hatcher is close to the head coach and would be available to coach as soon as a bowl game.
Hatcher, considered an offensive guru, led Valdosta to a Division II national championship in 2004. Valdosta did not make the playoffs this season for the first time since 1999.
According to the source, Bobby Bowden tried to talk his son out of resigning. But after a 30-0 loss to Wake Forest, Jeff felt there was nothing left to try and wanted to end speculation and take pressure off his father.
Hart said Bowden, 46, came to him Monday, and an agreement was worked out. Details are pending, Hart said, and will be released Wednesday.
"Jeff thought he wanted to give his father, give the staff and give recruiting the best possible opportunity to unfold in a positive manner," said Hart, adding all assistant coaches would be thoroughly evaluated after the season.
Florida State's players learned about the resignation as they hit the practice field Tuesday.
The Seminoles won national championships in 1993 and 1999 but have struggled since the younger Bowden replaced now-Georgia head coach Mark Richt as the offensive coordinator in 2001.
This season marked a new low point. Florida State must win one of its last two games -- against Western Michigan on Saturday or Florida on Nov. 25 -- to become bowl eligible.
The Seminoles (5-5, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost at home 30-0 Saturday to Wake Forest. It was the first time Florida State had been shut out in Tallahassee in Bobby Bowden's 31 seasons as coach.
Bobby Bowden has stood by his son's performance as offensive coordinator, despite a notable decline in scoring and yardage gained in the past half-dozen seasons.
"I am disappointed in Jeff's decision," the elder Bowden said in a university release. "This is a big loss to me personally. His decision is an emotional one for me."
The family matriarch, Ann Bowden, was home in bed with the flu and unavailable to comment.
In Richt's final season, the Seminoles averaged 42.4 points and 549 yards a game on their way to a national title game against Oklahoma -- totals never approached during Jeff Bowden's six years as coordinator.
In the last three seasons, Florida State has averaged fewer than 30 points a game -- for the first time since the 1981 season.
Jeff Bowden, who also coached wide receivers, also was plagued with an inconsistent quarterback during much of his tenure -- starting six different players at the position in six seasons. The position is up for grabs again this year with Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee struggling.
"The decision he made today was not one that he wanted to make," said Keith Jones, who played for the elder Bowden in the late 1970s and now serves as a color analyst on Seminoles telecasts. "To his credit, it was one he made for the benefit of the program."
Fans have been reluctant to criticize the elder Bowden -- major college football's wins leader with 364 victories -- focusing instead on his son. A Web site calling for Jeff Bowden's removal had gathered 2,975 signatures as of Tuesday.
Florida State president T.K. Wetherell, who has received hundreds of e-mails urging that the younger Bowden be fired, had no comment on the resignation.
ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad and The Associated Press contributed to this report.