We broke the story yesterday, and now Bobby Bowden has made it official. After a tremendous 34 year career at Florida State, he will lead the Seminoles onto the field for the final time when he coaches FSU in its bowl game, Bowden said in a statement released today. Bowden met with his players before releasing his statement. "It's been a great 34 seasons," Bowden said.
"I'd like to thank my wife Ann and my family for their love and support. There were a lot of nights when I was on the road and not at home at the dinner table. We all know that's part of it.
"I'd also like to thank the coaches and their families who helped build the program into something that is special. You can't have a successful program without players and we have been blessed to have young men who are winners both on and off the field. I want to thank them and their families for committing 4-5 years of their lives to me and to FSU.
"Finally, I'd like to thank the University and FSU fans who have supported the Florida State program. We've got one more game and I look forward to enjoying these next few weeks as the head football coach."
Bowden was named National Coach of the Year six times (1979, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1996 and 1999), and a national award presented by The Fellowship of Christian Athletes bears his name. He led Florida State to national championships in 1993 and again in 1999, the latter being the first team in the history of the Associated Press poll to go wire-to-wire ranked No. 1.
Wetherell, who will retire from the presidency of Florida State when his successor is installed as president -- perhaps within a few months -- said Bowden's "sterling personality and character" personified Florida State University.
"Bobby Bowden is not only one of the most outstanding college football coaches in history but also a great man who you would want as a mentor to your children," Wetherell said.
"Every true Seminole fan appreciates all that he has done in service to the university and all that he has accomplished for its football program -- two national championships, 12 ACC championships, 14 straight seasons among the Associated Press' Top Five, two Heisman Trophy winners and a Rhodes Scholar, induction into the College Football Hall of Fame -- but more than that, he has been an off-the-field mentor to so many young men looking to their future."
Wetherell, who was one of those young men, said he hopes Florida State's Athletics Department will plan a celebration and recognition for Bowden during next year's football season.
In his own tribute to Bowden, Wetherell said:
"Bobby Bowden has served as our head football coach and inspirational `friend-raiser' for more than 30 years. He led our football program to unprecedented success and established it among the nation's elite for many years. He set records of achievement on the field that will probably never be equaled.
"Bobby Bowden contributed in many ways to the overall success and advancement of a young and growing university, and the entire Bowden family is also a major part of this success story.
"I played for Bobby Bowden 45 years ago, when I was a young man, and he was an assistant coach under Bill Peterson.
"The bond between player and coach is strong enough, but our relationship forged even more powerful bonds as we worked hard for the university's advancement. With me and other presidents, Bobby Bowden helped raise public and private dollars to build some of the most impressive athletics facilities in the nation and to bring additional recognition to Florida State's academic achievements.
"Millions of Americans could see the good work and academic contributions of our university through the window of national television --a window that winning football teams provide for their institutions.
"Bobby Bowden, in many ways, became the face of Florida State. It was his sterling personality and character that personified this university. And because his influence was so powerful, we were able to advance far beyond what many of us ever dreamed."
For Florida State's part, they clearly made the right move. They have a duty to provide their players a competent and capable head coach. But how they went about handling the announcement was brutal. Florida State Athletic Director Randy Spetman ran away from reporters and refused to answer any questions regarding the biggest announcement in Florida State history. Instead of owning up to their decision, Spetman and FSU President T.K. Wetherell paraded current players to deal with the media. For their part, Florida State captains Christian Ponder and Dekoda Watson handled the questions well, considering the circumstances. But refusing to take any questions after making this decision is a cowardly and classless move by Spetman and Wetherell. Wetherell won't be around to answer questions in an official capacity for much longer, as he is retiring. And Spetman, long thought to be Wetherell's puppet, might not either.
Bowden is guaranteed $1 million per his contract upon retirement. Details of an additional compensation package are not yet available. Bowden will likely stay on as a fundraiser and visible face of Florida State football, much like John Wooden did at UCLA.
Bowden did not want a press conference and has always stated that he wanted to go quietly, without a farewell tour.
Jimbo Fisher, the reigning ACC Offensive Coordinator of the Year and head coach in waiting (HCIW), will be announced as head coach later this week after wrapping up some recruiting matters. Fisher and FSU have already agreed to a 5-year contract.
Gator Bowl President Rick Catlett on 1010XL radio in Jacksonville this morning said that if Bobby agrees to coach the bowl game, FSU will be playing WVU on January 1st. There may be some issues with ACC bowl rules, however, and at this time it is not known if those will be worked out.