The debate of the moment in the ACC is over Bobby Bowden’s future at Florida State. It should be a short one, in my opinion. Bowden needs to retire at the end of this season.
Bowden’s supporters argue that, for putting FSU on the college football map, Bowden deserves to choose his own exit strategy. It’s true that Bowden took the Seminoles from nowhere to two national titles, and he may now be a victim of his own success. At most schools, consistently winning 7 to 9 games a year is more than sufficient. But Bowden set a higher bar in the 1980s and 1990s than he can reach today.
FSU owes Bowden nothing at this point. It has paid him handsomely to do a job he loves. It has spared him from being accountable for several scandals over the years. It has allowed Bowden to use his coaching staff as an incubator for his children, even when his insistence on employing family has hurt the program. It has given Bowden a role in choosing his successor. And it has offered the softest of landings to end his career, eight years during which his teams have consistently underperformed.
It’s time for Bowden to think of what he owes to FSU: a chance to start putting the program ahead of himself.
Jeremy compares Bowden’s situation to that of Joe Paterno at Penn State, and he’s right that Paterno has vindicated his administration for standing by him. But I don’t think the two situations are all that similar.
Even during Paterno’s brief decline, Penn State faced no serious challengers for top high school talent coming out of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and its other key areas. In the absence of a regional competitor, Paterno was always one good class from reloading.
At FSU, however, the margin for error is far smaller. Bowden’s competition isn’t in the ACC, it’s in Gainesville and Coral Gables. The state of Florida is the most hotly recruited area in the country. Dominant Florida and resurgent Miami threaten to crowd Bowden out of top recruits’ living rooms as the Seminoles fall farther behind.
For several years now, Florida State has shown more commitment to its past than its future. For the program’s sake, that has to change this offseason. Bowden should aid the process by gracefully stepping aside.