When Florida State issued a press release Nov. 30 announcing that the Gator Bowl would be Bobby Bowden‘s last game as a head coach, it was widely assumed that the move was the result of a forced resignation or outright firing rather than voluntary retirement.
Bowden confirmed as much three weeks later; on the same day that his book Called to Coach is released, Bowden is reiterating in his strongest terms yet that he was fired by the university.
Speaking to Matt Hayes of the Sporting News, Bowden claimed that then-president T.K. Wetherell reneged on an agreement that would’ve allowed him to coach through the 2010 season and was, in essence, fired after the November loss to Florida. The day after that loss, Wetherell met with Bowden and gave the legendary coach a pair of options that weren’t really much of a choice at all.
“First thing he says is, ‘This ain’t gonna be pretty.’ It went downhill from there,” Bowden said in an interview that will appear in the next issue of Sporting News. “Those were his first words; I couldn’t believe it.
“He said, ‘You have two options: One is to stay on as an ambassador coach for one more year. You can still be the coach, but we don’t want you to go on the field.’ I’d get paid for doing nothing. That’s stealing from FSU. I said, ‘That’s out, forget it. What’s the other option?’ He said, ‘We don’t renew your contract.'”
Some would say that, for the past few years, Bowden was nothing more than a figurehead as coach anyway. That may very well have been the case, but, for all that Bowden did for that football program, to build it into one of the premier programs in the country, he deserved a little more respect at the end than he got.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for how this entire, sad situation played out — and how it’s still continuing to play out nine months later — including Bowden for not realizing years ago that perhaps he should take his leave. As the Seminoles patriarch, though, a lot more class in dealing with the living legend was not only deserved but should’ve been demanded by many of the individuals involved.
Although some would have you believe it, this was not akin to putting down a favorite dog; too bad some connected to the university treated Bowden far worse, like he was some stray off the street.