There's a lot to cover with this Bowden story. Start here and read about how Bobby Bowden has torn down FSU's once proud program, leading the Board of Trustees Chair Jim Smith to publicly call for his ouster. See the comments of Bobby's wife, Anne Bowden, here. Finbally, read yesterday's article which laid out Bobby Bowden's options, including a best case/ worst case scenario for Florida State. If you have any questions regarding any of the links, chances are your question has been asked and answered, so check the corresponding comment section.
As you probably know, Bobby Bowden isn't real happy right now.
As I told you Monday, Jimbo Fisher is on the verge of getting a new contract that will grant him nearly all of the meaningful head coaching powers(final say over game day operations, recruiting, coaching, practice, and personnel decisions) as soon as the current regular season ends.
As I indicated yesterday morning, Bobby Bowden has two choices. Bowden can choose stay on for 2010 as an emasculated head coach in name only, ceding all powers to Jimbo Fisher. That would mean that Fisher could fire team cancer/ linebackers coach/ executive head coach Chuck Amato, Defensive Ends coach Jody Allen, and a few other coaches who are either unqualified or unwilling to coach at a championship level. Combine that with the almost certain retirement of legendary defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews at season's end, and you have a situation where Bobby Bowden would not be able to promote Amato, thought to be the person he trusts on staff, to the defensive coordinator position. Under this scenario, Bowden would receive only the $1 Million bonus for the lifetime achievement (see linked article above). Since Bowden would not be allowed to make any personnel or other important decisions, he would obviously not be promoting Amato to replace Andrews as defensive coordinator.
On the other hand, Bowden has a lucrative deal available to him should he elect to simply walk away at season's end. In addition to the $1 Million bonus, I believe the boosters will offer him as much as $3 Million in extra compensation, possibly more, for him to just go away. How much does Bowden really care about money?. How much does his family care about money? Some say a lot because he allegedly lost a good bit of money in his son's felony investment scheme and allegedly lost some more in some condos gone bad along Florida's Emerald Coast during the real estate crash. If his posturing is merely a money grab, he'll take this option.
I am told that Bowden is digging in and is refusing either option. Obviously, his obstinacy is not making this situation easy. I told you this could get ugly.
So now we wait.
The major hangup is still Chuck Amato. Bowden's loyalty is again causing him problems. It's served him well at times throughout his carer. Here however, if he decides that his loyalty to Chuck Amato is more important to him than Florida State, his Florida State coaching career will be over. He wants to name Amato as the next defensive coordinator. Florida State simply will not allow that, barring an absolute disaster miracle. And this if Florida State's administration. There's always some chance they could save or possibly find another way to mess up this situation.
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In an interesting twist, I could question Chuck Amato's loyalty to Bobby Bowden. Amato obviously knows that he is the central hangup in this entire mess, undermining Jimbo Fisher at every turn. If Amato would simply step down, this whole mess would go away, Bowden could have his farewell tour next season, and then ride off into the sunset. It makes me wonder. Did Bobby Bowden promise Chuck Amato the defensive coordinator position, expecting that Mickey Andrews would step down after the 2007 or 2008 season? It came as a shock to many that Andrews came back (most suspect at Fisher's request, to block Amato's ascension to the defensive coordinator throne). Doubtful Bowden saw that one coming. Is Bowden simply trying to make life for Fisher (the man who showed interest in a West Virginia job that allegedly angered Bobby because Bowden thought the job was for his son Tommy, and also the man who replaced failed offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden) so tough that Jimbo simply walks away? In that case, he'd be able to install Amato. Remember that Bowden has never been happy with the Head Coach in Waiting deal. That would explain why Bowden allowed Amato to take a position as "Executive Head Coach" who by title is currently over Jimbo Fisher even though Fisher is the head coach in waiting, limiting Fisher's powers to enact desperately needed changed to the program which he will soon inherit. Maybe Bowden feels guilty for promising something he cannot deliver. That would explain the blind loyalty he shows to a man who acts as a blatant obstructionist on his team.
Or maybe at 80-years old he is extremely scared of change and views Amato as the only coach on staff he can trust next season. After practice Tuesday, Bowden indicated that he would have a say in the naming of the next defensive coordinator. It's well known that Bowden wants Amato to be the next defensive coordinator. He knows better than that and is simply posturing. Unfortunately for him and Amato, that does not appear to the case, barring some minor miracle.
But if Bowden does elect to come back under the terms of the offer, what does that say about him? Is he simply coaching to pick up a check? With no right to make meaningful decisions, what would Bowden be doing? Would he sacrifice Amato to save himself? Some would ask that question now, but insiders unanimously will tell you that his role on the current team is much worse than figurehead. It's worse because he still tries to make decisions he believes are good, but in reality they are not beneficial to the team because he is ill-informed and not capable of leading well enough to make those decisions right now. Any win he gained on his record under this proposal would have to ring hollow. Isn't Bowden a more prideful man than that scenario would allow for?
Of course if Bowden did decide to come back in the reduced capacity, it could be that he is motivated by a fear of death. In his book and in several other interviews throughout his career, Bowden has referenced Bear Bryant, the legendary Alabama coach who coach Bowden idolized. Importantly though, Bowden has referenced Bryant's death, which occurred shortly after he quit coaching. So quick in fact, that coach Bryant never lived to see a single snap of Alabama football as a retired coach. The common Bowden quote goes "There's only one more event in a man's life after retirement, and I an't lookin forward to that." I won't get into the man's faith, as this is a forum for analysis of athletics and related issues, but I have always been curious how he meshes his great fear of death with his strong Christian beliefs. I had the pleasure to listen to Coach Bowden give an Easter sermon probably 15 or so years ago and he was excellent, and am in no way questioning his faith.
Blindsided by Blindness?
I am told that Bowden didn't see this one coming. I simply do not understand how he could not. I know that he doesn't know how to use a computer, but it is up to those around him to keep him apprised of the situation. This comes back to Bowden not having anyone who cares about him. It's not a sucker punch if you know somebody is going to hit you and you close your eyes. Insert your "Emporer's new clothes" reference here.
Florida State's Smith Knew What He Was Doing
People should not take Jim Smith's comments lightly. The man is a shrewd politician, attorney, and lobbyist. I am told he does nothing publicly by accident. There should be no doubt that Smith took the temperature of the Board of Trustees and the big money boosters before going public with the comments. Bobby Bowden no longer carries the money, and in the world of college football, donations, or rather a the threat of the lack thereof, speak the loudest.
Playing or Surviving the Media Game
Prepare for Florida State to take a beating in the National Media. Unfortunately, in-depth journalism doesn't gather ratings or readers when it comes to a national media. They specialize in quick blurbs that can be easily repackaged and repeated all over a vast array of outlets. In particular, the older members of the national media will side with Bowden, almost unanimously.
And expect them to be fed anti-FSU information directly from the Bowden camp. Bowden is an 80-year old man with Diabetes, Shingles, and a perpetual flu that has him constantly wiping his nose with a handkerchief as he ambles about the sidelines, sometimes 30 yards away from the action, other times trying to assert his ill-informed will over the team. But the same qualities that make him a terrible current coach(and I say current to separate his current ability from his amazing career), also make him an incredibly sympathetic figure. He's a cute broken down old man who still wants to work and tend to what he built. Nobody from his inner circle will take his keys. Bowden will make a great victim in the national press. Many who are unfamiliar with the situation will be extremely sympathetic towards him.
One example of Bowden's media savvy is the Florida State Blackout Protest (see link for details on the planned protest of Bowden, hailed as "innovative and strikingly visual.") Bowden played dumb after practice saying that he didn't know much about it and that some students came to visit him and that they were against it. What he didn't mention was that the movement's creator was summoned to Bowden's office, pressured, and handed a cease and desist order. It seems Florida State didn't approve of the use of certain FSU-related images. The images are gone, but the support only continues to grow as more and more people join the movement to wear black to oppose Bowden's continued employment, while at the same time cheering for their beloved 'Noles.
Nobody in the national media will understand how he has set Florida State's program on fire and driven it off a cliff for a period of time FSU fans have coined the "Lost Decade." The national media won't do their homework and realize that Bowden betrayed Florida State through a series of amazingly selfish and ill-planned decisions. It's smart for the Bowden camp to keep feeding the news media this positive press. Maybe they will hire a PR Firm to do their dirty work. Maybe one of Bowden's sons will feed so much information to an Orlando paper that one writer suddenly becomes Bowden's staunchest defender and Fisher's biggest critic, seemingly overnight, while others from the same news outlet write over the top stories criticizing Bowden to masque their status as bedfellows with one of Bowden's sons.
Everyone in the media seems to be taking a stance on this. Subscription sites were smart to do what Jim Smith did and gauge the fanbase and cater to the overwhelming majority (Smith says that upwards of 95% of the feedback from his comments has been positive). One outlet obviously has an in with Smith and those who have actual say in Bowden's future (and they say he is gone). Yet others still will change their tune, like someone who was once objective and is now in bed with publicists, perhaps hoping that singing in a different key will earn them the shot to write Bowden's memoirs.
Everyone has an agenda in this fight, except for the national media which seeks only to garner ratings. On a local level, those who cover the team have to delicately balance future posturing against the possibility of sell the current story for a situation which looks like it may drag on longer and longer by the day. Our agenda? To comment on the story while asking the question: "what move(s) best serves the interest of Florida State's football program?" It's a question that few seem to be asking.
So while Bowden will shrewdly plays the media game, can Florida State fight back through the press? Indeed they can. They need to do so in an undercover manner, and they may have already started. ESPN ran a story on their ticker that indicated Florida State will not ask Bobby Bowden to step down. That statement is 100% accurate. Bowden is on a one-year contract and he will not be fired during the season. The options, as I laid out above, are either to return with the reduced responsibilities or walk away. There will be no firing. It would simply be a non-renewal of a one year contract. No outlet will be able to say Florida State fired Bobby Bowden. They simply didn't elect to renew his deal. Florida State doesn't need to drum up much public support. They can weather the media storm because they hold all the cards. Bowden is the one who needs a miracle here.
But as I said, we must sit and wait.
It seems increasingly likely that Fisher's contract will get done very soon, granting him head coach powers, with or without the title. As for Bowden, Florida State might just let this one die down a bit in the media. FSU can make it look like this situation is completely up to Bobby Bowden. It's not Florida State's decision, it's Bowden's retirement planning.
I initially thought that Florida State needed to handle this like a band-aid. Rip that sucker off and begin the healing process. Don't let it linger. I thought that because I believed that FSU needed an announcement from Bowden in order to appease the boosters and save the recruiting class.
But I no longer believe that. With the Fisher contract likely to grant him full coach powers, I no longer feel Bowden's announcement is essential. Making it seem like this situation was all about the Fisher contract and completely ignoring any of the pity-party nonsense that comes from the Bowden camp is a genius way to handle this process because it definitively answers questions about Florida State's future (including recruiting) and doesn't force FSU to placate the Bowden camp in any way. Instead of saying "end of the Bobby Bowden Era", FSU will simply say "We are excited to embark on the Jimbo Fisher Era."
As for a timetable on something like this, it is hard to say. I didn't expect Bowden to fight this as hard as he is. Sure, I expected him to publicly fight it, but I expected him to privately accept one of the options. If the Fisher announcement is made soon as many suspect, then the Bowden decision could be delayed until Christmas. It really wouldn't matter. Fisher already has his offensive coordinator on staff, and he would need to select a defensive coordinator regardless of Bowden's decision. The point being, the timing of Bowden choosing either option won't affect Fisher's ability to compile a championship caliber staff and finish strong in the recruiting trail as he and the other coaches attempt to repair some of the damage done by Bowden's mismanagement of the program.
If the Fisher announcement hits a snag, then I would expect some sort of "progress is being made" announcement.
Fun InHistoric.com Bobby Bowden is Older Than Fact Of the Day: DNA. Seriously. Bobby Bowden is older than DNA
Editor's Note: I'd like to get back to some actual football talk. There won't be another substantial Fisher-Bowden piece like this one and the previous two until we learn more. We would like to cover FSU's Goal-line woes, the defensive problems, and of couse, the intracicies of Georgia Tech's offense. That's right, Florida State has a game this weekend.