Bowden hopes to win appeal
FLORENCE, Ala. -- Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said Tuesday that he's still hopeful the Seminoles will win an NCAA appeal that will allow him to keep his 382 career victories, which is one fewer than Penn State's Joe Paterno entering the 2009 season.
Florida State is appealing the NCAA's decision to strip Bowden of 14 victories as part of its punishment for academic fraud, which allegedly involved 61 student-athletes cheating on an online music course.
The NCAA placed Florida State on four years' probation, cut 19 athletic scholarships and ordered the school to vacate victories by 10 teams whose student-athletes were involved.
If Bowden is stripped of 14 victories, his historic race with Paterno for most victories by a major college football coach would be all but over.
"They have ruled and we have appealed," Bowden said, while attending a news conference at the University of North Alabama, where his son, Terry, is the Division II school's new football coach. "I'm hopeful we win that appeal. I've been coaching 55 years and have never been accused of cheating. Now it could happen for something I had no part of. It doesn't seem right. It could happen. I won't cut my wrist if it happens."
Bowden, 79, was attending a "Day With The Bowdens" event at North Alabama. He will enter the 2009 season with a one-year contract and won't say when he plans to retire. Bowden has a 309-91-4 record in 33 seasons at FSU, leading the Seminoles to national championships in 1993 and 1999.
"I'm not going to coach until I'm 85," Bowden said. "I just won't do that. My days are numbered. I know when about it's going to be, but I won't say."
The NCAA found no evidence that Bowden or other FSU coaches played a role in the academic scandal or were even aware that cheating was occurring. FSU self-reported the violations to the NCAA in 2007.
Earlier this week, Paterno told a Pennsylvania newspaper that it would be wrong for the NCAA to punish Bowden.
"The NCAA is going to do what it's going to do, but I would hope they would not take away 10 or 12 wins away from him," Paterno told the Reading (Penn.) Eagle. "I don't think that's fair. He coached the team he had; they played against people, and they won. They ought to be wins for them."
Asked about the comments, Bowden said: "That doesn't surprise me. I would say the same thing if it was facing him. I hope that doesn't happen because there will always be an asterisk out there.
"He's in the lead right now," he added. "Of course if you vacate those 14 wins, that thing is over."
He and Paterno spent time together during a Nike-sponsored trip to Puerto Rico in the spring with other coaches. The win thing doesn't come up, Bowden said.
"Joe and I kind of hang around a little bit, but you know we never discuss that," he said. "We're both aware of it. The thing about it, there ain't nobody with us. It's just me and him. The next guy is going to take 25 years to catch us. One of us is going to be it and I can't think of a better guy than Joe, unless it's me."
Terry Bowden, who returned to coaching for the first time since he was fired as Auburn's coach in 1998, said he hopes FSU wins its appeal.
"I think it's important to everybody who played for Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden," Terry Bowden said. "They can tell their kids they played for the all-time winningest coach in college football history. I want to bounce my grandkids on my knee and tell them about Bobby Bowden as the all-time winningest coach and not Joe Paterno."
Bobby Bowden said he hoped the NCAA followed the precedents set in recent infractions cases against Georgia Tech and Oklahoma.
In 2005, 11 Georgia Tech football players were improperly certified by the school as eligible for competition. An investigation found a total of 17 Georgia Tech student-athletes were improperly certified and ordered the Yellow Jackets to vacate all of their football victories from 1998 to 2004. Georgia Tech later won an appeal and had the victories reinstated.
In 2008, an NCAA appeals committee overturned a ruling that would have forced Oklahoma's football team to vacate its victories from an 8-5 season in 2005. The penalties were punishment for an infractions case involving former Sooners quarterback Rhett Bomar.
"I hope they do what they've done in the past," Bowden said.
Mark Schlabach is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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