TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The second-winningest coach in the history of Division I-A football got fired Tuesday, and the men who fired him sent a pair of 21-year-olds to explain everything. Florida State quarterback
The press release that announced Bowden's ouster didn't include the words "fired," "resigned," "retired" or the phrase "not retained." It included glowing quotes from FSU president
We were told later that it was Bowden's wish that Spetman didn't speak, probably because Spetman has no real power. But Wetherell and Spetman didn't honor Bowden's wish to coach the Seminoles in 2010. Seems they get to pick and choose which of Bowden's requests they grant.
Make no mistake, Bowden got fired. He wanted to coach Florida State in 2010. He said as much in a teleconference Sunday night. "Right now, I would like to come back," Bowden said then. "I've got bosses. I've got people who have to approve it." That option was not presented to Bowden in a meeting with Wetherell and Spetman on Monday. If you have Job A, and you'd like to continue doing Job A, and your boss offers you a choice of Job B or nothing, you've been fired from Job A.
Wetherell didn't make the wrong decision. The program had slid too far under Bowden, who kept trying unsuccessfully to raise it back to the heights he reached from 1987-2000, when the Seminoles finished every season ranked in the top five. Wetherell, a former Florida State player and Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, had little choice once prominent boosters began calling for Bowden's resignation.
Wetherell, who has been FSU's president since 2003, will step down soon himself. The presidential search committee met Tuesday, as a matter of fact. It's too bad few will remember anything Wetherell did on the academic side. For eternity, he'll be the president who fired Bobby Bowden and then refused to explain himself.
Bowden opted not to take questions Tuesday, instead sitting down for a brief interview with a sports information official. To his credit, associate athletic director
When Ohio State fired
Can you imagine if
You don't even dismiss a mediocre coach without an explanation. When Notre Dame fired
What did Florida State officials do? They sent Ponder and Watson. The two players handled the situation flawlessly. Their coach would have been proud. But they seemed a little shocked when a reporter asked how they felt being the only spokesmen for the program. "It's weird," Ponder said.
To dismiss a coach with 388 career wins without so much as a syllable of public explanation simply defies logic. We joke often in stories that if a coach pulls off some improbable feat, his university will build a statue of him. Florida State built a statue of Bobby Bowden in 2004. Five years later, Florida State fired Bobby Bowden, and Wetherell never said a word.
I called the office of
Besides, he had made it clear he didn't want to explain his actions, even though his salary is paid by the citizens of the state, and he had just made the monumental decision to fire one of the most successful public employees in the state's history.
Bowden said his conversations with Wetherell were cordial, but they couldn't have been pleasant for the legend. He had made it abundantly clear he wanted to return. Those who wonder why, at 80, he wanted another spin on the tilt-a-whirl need to understand Bowden's personal history. His father,
Bowden's personal and professional heroes each passed away within sixth months of retiring, and it would be foolish to think he doesn't fear suffering the same fate. That's why Bowden sounded like he was only half-joking Tuesday when he said this: "Now, you know I have to go out and get a job? Can you believe that? I've got to go get a job. I ain't had a job in 55 years."
Bowden probably will stay busy by helping raise money for the university he served for the past 34 years. He also may take a few trips with his wife,
He'll have plenty of time to do that now. It's just a shame Florida State's big man didn't have the guts to stand up in public and explain why.