Happy Trails

     I graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1998, and spent another year and a half there in graduate school before pulling the ripcord and bailing out of higher education altogether. I’ve been a diehard Seminole fan since my first football game as an undergraduate in September 1996, against Duke (you have to be diehard to sit in that kind of heat to watch Duke attempt to play football).
     So the morning after Bobby Bowden announced his retirement, I’ve come across several columns by people who really haven’t been paying much attention to FSU since the beginning of the decade, who are criticizing the school for supposedly firing the iconic coach.
     Here’s Dave Curtis writing for “Sporting News,” under the headline “Don’t Buy the Spin-Bowden was Canned.” Andy Staples on SI.com writes under the headline “Make No Mistake: FSU Just Fired a Legend Without Explaining Why.” Tim Layden in an op/ed piece on SI.com writes that “Bowden was forced out.”
     To which I respond: and? Clearly these writers haven’t been paying much attention to what’s going on around Doak Campbell Stadium the past six or seven years.
     In the last five years, FSU is 16-16 in conference play (a conference it once dominated so thoroughly that a single conference loss was headline news), 28-27 against BCS-level competition, and 45-30 overall. Oh yeah, we’ve also lost six straight to Florida.
     If you don’t live here you can’t possibly imagine how arrogant Florida fans are, without a six-game winning streak.
     The fact is, he wasn’t getting the job done. The team has been in an obvious decline for several years. He personally asked defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews to return this season even though Andrews wanted to retire following the suicide of his son a few years ago. The results have been atrocious.
     FSU is ranked 109th in rushing defense, 87th in passing defense, 108th in total defense, and 98th in scoring defense. Watching us play defense is like watching a sixth-grade production of “Our Town:” you might applaud the effort but the actual product makes you want to puke.
     Defense is what got Bowden pushed out, specifically the fact that Andrews has announced his retirement. What athletic director in his right mind is going to allow a head coach with one year left on his own contract to make a key personnel decision that will either handcuff his successor or put the school on the hook for a buyout?
     I don’t condone how the situation was handled. President T.K. Wetherell and athletic director/lapdog Randy Spetman should be run out of town for throwing a couple of current players to the wolves to deal with the fallout. At the very least they should have a hard time looking at themselves in the mirror for a couple of weeks.
     But that doesn’t mean a change didn’t need to be made. College football is big business, and it has been for some time. It’s funny to see all this hand-wringing today, when a man who had a football field named after him, a statue erected in front of the stadium, and who drew roughly $2.5 million a year in salary, is shown the door because he wasn’t earning his paycheck.
     So Bobby Bowden was denied one last season to wander aimlessly along the sidelines, a glorified spectator in a straw panama hat, at a cost of over $2 million. It’s the first good decision the program has made since last century.
     I wish Bobby the best. I hope he has a long, fulfilling retirement. I also appreciate, very much, all he’s done for the school. But the school should always come first, and that finally happened this week.
     Go Noles.

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