Slow start amplifies Bowden criticism

Updated: October 6, 2009, 9:57 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said Sunday he isn't planning on quitting anytime soon, but the chair of the university's board of trustees has seen enough of the man who transformed the program into a collegiate powerhouse.

"My hope is frankly that we'll go ahead, and if we have to, let the world know that this year will be the end of the Bowden era," chairman Jim Smith told the Tallahassee Democrat on Sunday. " ... I do appreciate what he's done for us, what he's done for the program, what he's done really for the state of Florida.

"I think the record will show that the Seminole Nation has been more than patient. We have been in a decline not for a year or two or three but I think we're coming up on seven or eight. I think enough is enough."

Bowden had no comment Monday night.

Interviewed by The Associated Press on Monday, Smith said the arrangement with Bowden as head coach and his successor, Jimbo Fisher, as offensive coordinator isn't working.

"We've got too many bosses out there," Smith said. "Jimbo is in a very, very tough situation where people assume he has a whole lot more authority than he really has. He's getting blamed for a lot of things that's just not his fault."

The Seminoles are 2-3 for the first time since Bowden's inaugural season at the school 33 years ago, and 0-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time, prompting commentary about his future.

Smith confirmed to the Democrat that Florida State president T.K. Wetherell and legal counsel Betty Steffens have been working with Fisher to finalize a contract for him as head coach.

"The president intends to announce we've negotiated a contract with coach Fisher," Smith said, according to the newspaper.

Fisher was deemed the head coach-in-waiting in 2007. If he does not succeed Bowden at the conclusion of the 2010 season, Florida State -- under the terms of its agreement with Fisher -- would have to pay him $5 million. FSU has begun working on the structure of a five-year pact that would settle how much Fisher is to be paid when he takes over, if not further define when, a person familiar with those discussions told ESPN's Joe Schad.

It is expected that the plan, when formalized, would also give Fisher the authority to make staff decisions as early as the end of this season -- such as choosing the replacement for retiring defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.

First-year head coaches at similar schools have recently earned about $2 million per season. Florida State would like to see a smooth transition from Bowden to Fisher, but there are complicating factors to the coach-in-waiting scenario, one person familiar with the situation told Schad. Bowden is still believed to be leaning toward coaching next season, the person said.

After Saturday's 28-21 loss at Boston College, two Florida newspapers, including the hometown Democrat, also said Bowden, who turns 80 on Nov. 8, should call it a career at the end of this season.

"The love and admiration we all have for Bobby doesn't put fans in the seats, money in the coffers or national championships in the trophy case," Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi wrote. "Bobby used to be able to do all those things, but clearly he cannot anymore."

Steve Ellis, the Democrat's beat writer who frequently doubles up with opinion pieces, wrote that Florida State must make a tough decision while Bowden's apparent successor, Fisher, calls the plays for the offense.

"It is time," Ellis wrote in Sunday's edition. "This should be Bowden's last season."

Smith said the university's arrangement with Fisher has resulted in division among the Florida State staff, an accusation Seminoles coaches have vehemently denied.

"I know coaches are sniping at each other and that's just terrible," Smith told the AP on Monday. "There are too many mixed signals."

Bowden's 384 wins are three fewer than Penn State coach Joe Paterno, the career leader in victories among major college coaches. Bowden has a contract that gives him the option to return in 2010 -- but no later, or the school will have to pay Fisher a $5 million bonus.

With the pressure mounting on her husband, Ann Bowden told the Orlando Sentinel that Bobby has been betrayed by Smith and other boosters.

"I am angry," Ann Bowden told the newspaper on Monday. "I'm angry at some of our boosters that Bobby has worked for and supported, raised money for. And he's been such a top quality person, such great character and everything for this university. And for them to turn their back on him like that -- I don't care if he is 80 years old ... ."

According to the Sentinel, Bobby Bowden declined comment Monday.

Bowden, known for his glib, affable personality, said Sunday that he'd make the decision on his future in conjunction with the university president when the time is right.

"We are the ones who will determine what we do and what kind of progress we make," Bowden said. "I will determine my situation. I won't let some guys' speculation tell me when to move."

Thousands of Florida State fans on Internet sites share the opinion of Ellis and Bianchi, that the strange two-headed coaching arrangement isn't resulting in wins.

And Florida State's season doesn't get any easier when No. 22 Georgia Tech comes calling Saturday night, in a game that will be televised nationally. Suddenly, avoiding the Seminoles' first losing season since 1976 could become the only goal left.

"We've still got a lot of games to play," Bowden said. "We've got to stay the course and try to get better in the areas we're getting beat."

Still, Bowden realizes that another loss in the league would make it nearly impossible to get back to the ACC title game for the first time since 2005.

"You simply can't give up," he said. "I refuse to."

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad was used in this report.

ALSO SEE