Source: Bowden doesn't intend to quit
The futures of Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden and his successor-in-waiting, Jimbo Fisher, remained unsettled Wednesday while the Seminoles players sought to keep their focus on Saturday's conference game against No. 22 Georgia Tech.
Bowden said Sunday he isn't planning on leaving the job he's held for 33 seasons, in response to the blistering critique from board of trustees chairman Jim Smith, who said the program is not viable with Bowden as head coach and the Bowden-Fisher arrangement is not working.
University president T.K. Wetherell issued a statement Wednesday assuring the Florida State community that a transition will be finalized at some point.
"Two years ago Coach Bowden and I and others stood together and announced that we were beginning a period of transition for the football program. That plan is in place and will produce results, given the opportunity and support," Wetherell said.
"I want to assure all fans, friends, supporters and alumni of Florida State University that that transition will be finalized. Jimbo Fisher will be Florida State University's next head football coach. We expect to work with Coach Fisher on a contract toward that end, and I will evaluate the program with the athletics director at the end of this season.
"Specifically, I also know that Bobby Bowden loves this university. I have talked with him at length, and I know that he will do the right thing, as he always has done. I know the man and I know what's in his heart."
Bowden briefly met with Wetherell on Monday, but a person close to the coach said the two did not discuss Bowden leaving after this season.
One of their discussion points was Smith's remarks that a coaching change needed to be made. Bowden's contract runs through the 2010 season.
"I don't think they're going to make him quit and I don't think he wants to," a person close to Bowden told ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach. "If the season ends on a down [note], I think he'll do exactly what he's always said he'll do -- he'll leave on his own terms. He's going to retire soon, but nobody wants to make it an ugly departure."
According to the source, Bowden remains convinced the Seminoles can turn their 2-3 season around.
"He told TK, 'Don't you quit. We have a season to save. We have some games to win,' " the person close to Bowden said.
A source told ESPN's Shaun King on Tuesday that Bowden will not be asked to step down this season, but a succession plan for Fisher to assume greater responsibility before the 2010 season has been discussed.
If Bowden remains as coach for next season, the source said, Florida State officials want a plan in place in which Fisher would have control over the Seminoles' football operations.
Fisher, Bowden's offensive coordinator, was designated the head coach-in-waiting in 2007. If he does not succeed Bowden at the end 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 parameters of a five-year deal with Fisher, Smith told the Tallahassee Democrat recently.
"It's all about them not winning enough games. Everybody thought they'd be over the hump and playing better. But nobody has said, 'Bobby, it's over at the end of the season.' He has told them, 'I'll talk about it at the end of the year.' " the person close to Bowden told Schlabach.
Florida State hosts Georgia Tech (4-1) on Saturday (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET). The Seminoles are 0-2 in the ACC for the first time under Bowden. Anxiety in Seminole Nation has reached a crescendo recently.
"It's just really sad because he has propelled FSU into a national power and we just haven't been there for really eight years now," Ron Sellers, a record-setting wide receiver from 1966-68, told Schlabach. "I really don't know what's compounding the problem.
"It's just a sad time. "I guess that people want Bobby to step down gracefully, and I want what's best for Florida State University. I'm just really saddened by where we are. I'm hurting as much as all the Seminole Nation. It's bad. The last two Saturdays have been bad. Something is amiss, and I'm not sure what it is. But we can't keep going in the direction it's going."
Sellers, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988, still attends FSU football games regularly. He was at the Seminoles' 19-9 victory over FCS opponent Jacksonville (Ala.) State on Sept. 12, when FSU had to score two touchdowns in the final 35 seconds to avoid the worst loss in Bowden's tenure.
"I saw too many dropped passes, too many fumbles, too many guys dropping punts and too many people missing tackles," Sellers said. "We're just a team in disarray."
Redshirt junior defensive back Ochuko Jenije told ESPN.com's Heather Dinich that the team is trying to put its attention into preparation for the Tech game.
"[The coaching situation] hasn't really been a distraction," Jenije said. "We know how things are in the college football world. It hasn't really been a distraction. We just let them do their talking. We're just going to focus on getting better and getting the man some wins."
Mark Schlabach and Heather Dinich cover college football for ESPN.com.