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Bowden confirms he's retiring as FSU coach after bowl game

Aaron Knox TBO.com
Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 08:55 PM

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Legendary Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden confirmed today that he will retire after the Seminoles play in his final bowl game, perhaps the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1.

"It's been a great 34 seasons," Bowden said in a statement released by the school Tuesday afternoon. "We've got one more game and I look forward to enjoying these next few weeks as the head football coach."

Pressure built on Bowden, 80, to step aside this season as Florida State struggled to a 6-6 record that included a home loss to South Florida and a lopsided loss to top-ranked Florida in the last game of the season.

Bowden said several times this season that he'd like to return for one more run in 2010, but he ultimately decided against it. FSU officials announced after the 2007 season that offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher would succeed Bowden, who is second on the all-time college football wins list.

"Nothing lasts forever, does it?" Bowden said during a video news conference Tuesday afternoon. "But I've had some wonderful years here at Florida State, you know it?

"Hadn't done as good lately as I wish I could have, but I've had wonderful years, no regrets."

A relaxed-looking Bowden was interviewed by school officials and the video was made available Tuesday.

"You know something like this is going to happen," he said. "If it didn't happen now it would be happening this time next year ... As long as my family is happy, that's the main thing. So I'll go out and make a lot of talks now and tell everybody how good I was."

Bowden 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.

He was named national coach of the year six times (1979, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1996 and 1999). His head coaching career spanned 44 years and he also worked as an assistant at Howard, Florida State and West Virginia.

"Now, you know I have to go out and get a job," Bowden said in the taped interview. "Can you believe that? I've got to go get a job. I ain't had a job in 55 years."

FSU President T.K. Wetherell told the Tallahassee Democrat that he's hopeful Bowden will remain with the university. According to Wetherell, Bowden may assume an emeritus position and help FSU with fundraising.

Wetherell also told the Tallahassee newspaper that FSU will play West Virginia in the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, though no official announcement has been made.

It would be a rematch the 1982 Gator Bowl, when Florida State defeated West Virginia 31-12. West Virginia also was the school where Bowden coached before taking over at FSU.

Bowden met with his team to give his players the news Tuesday afternoon, before the announcement was released on the FSU athletics Web site.

"Bobby Bowden has served as our head football coach and inspirational 'friend-raiser' for more than 30 years," Wetherell said in the press release. "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."

He also got caught up in NCAA investigations. The school was hit with five years' probation for a 1993 incident when several of his players were given free shoes and sporting goods from a local store. That led to former Florida coach Steve Spurrier calling Florida State "Free Shoes University."

Bowden entered this season faced with losing 14 of his wins as part of sanctions from the NCAA on an academic cheating scandal that involved two dozen football players. The school is appealing.

CBS college football analyst Gary Danielson was outspoken about the way FSU handled Bowden's retirement from coaching.

"I think it's a bit of a disgrace,'' Danielson said on a conference call Tuesday for Saturday's SEC championship game, which CBS is broadcasting. "I don't understand why the Florida State nation could not come together and all pull in the same direction.''

FSU senior linebacker Dekoda Watson seemed to agree.

"I feel like a lot of people feel, [that] he deserves better," Watson said.

About 30 reporters and 15 media trucks were waiting for Bowden at his parking spot at the Moore Athletic Center this morning.

He was able to avoid them by parking his Mercedes E350 inside Doak Campbell Stadium underneath the north end zone.

Bowden, the second-winningest coach in major college football history, met earlier Tuesday morning at his home with school officials, their second such meeting in two days.

After Florida State lost its regular-season finale to Florida on Saturday, Bowden said he had to do some soul-searching before deciding whether he would return in 2010.

On Monday night, Bowden told the AP at his home that he was still sifting through "options" presented to him when he met with Wetherell and athletic director Randy Spetman.

There were questions about how responsibilities would be divided next season between Bowden and Fisher - especially when it comes to hiring assistants. Fisher was set to receive $5 million from Florida State if he was not the head coach by January 2011.

Earlier this year, Bowden had strongly suggested he wanted to return for the 2010 season. But Bowden, whose 388 career wins are second only to Penn State's Joe Paterno among major college coaches, also said he could not return as a head coach with no authority.

"Bobby has been a tough competitor," Paterno said in a statement. "He has meant an awful lot to the universities he coached and to the game of football overall. He and his wife, Ann, have dedicated their lives with untold hours to better the teams and universities they cared so much about. They will be missed by the coaching profession and college football. Sue and I wish them well."

HEAD COACHING HONORS

1977 Southern Independent Coach of the Year
1979 National Coach of the Year (ABC-Chevrolet)
1980 National Coach of the Year (Bobby Dodd)
1983 Inducted - Florida Sports Hall of Fame
1986 Inducted - Alabama Sports Hall of Fame
1991 National Coach of the Year (Walter Camp)
1992 Neyland Trophy Winner
1996 National Coach of the Year (Home Depot)
1999 National Coach of the Year (Home Depot)
1999 National Coach of the Decade Finalist (Home Depot)
1999 ESPN College Team of the Decade (any sport)
2006 Inducted - National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame

COACHING ACCOMPLISHMENTS

• Second winningest coach in major college football history with 388 career coaching victories

• The only coach in the history of Division I-A football to compile 14 straight 10-win seasons (1987-2000)

• Coached the Seminoles to consensus National Championships in 1993 and 1999

• His 1999 National Championship team is the first in college football history to go wire-to-wire as the Associated Press' No. 1 ranked team

• Set NCAA records with 11 consecutive bowl victories (1985-95) and 14 straight bowl trips without a loss (1982-95)

• Ranks first among active coaches for winning percentage in bowl games and has led the Seminoles to 27 straight bowl games - the longest current streak in the nation

• Has guided FSU to 30 bowl appearances in 33 seasons, including 27 straight

• Since 1993, Florida State played in the national championship game five times (1993 Orange vs. Nebraska, 1996 Sugar vs. Florida, 1998 Fiesta vs. Tennessee, 1999 Sugar vs. Virginia Tech, and 2000 Orange vs. Oklahoma)


The Tallahassee Democrat and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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