Georgia Tech vs. Florida State
When: 8 tonight
Where: Tallahassee, Fla.
TV, radio: ESPN2, 1240-AM, 99.3-FM
Web site: www.ramblinwreck.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Bobby Bowden is in dire need of a win against No. 22 Georgia Tech tonight, maybe as badly as any of the 514 times he has walked the sidelines as a college coach.
Florida State (2-3, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) is off to its worst start since Bowden’s first year in 1976 and fan disenchantment has grown during a decade of mediocrity.
The 14-year run of top-five finishes that produced a pair of national titles and two Heisman Trophy winners are a distant memory. Most Florida State students were in elementary school when the Seminoles made their last push for a national title.
Bowden’s job status divides boosters, school administrators, trustees and students.
Florida State student Michael Hoff, a freshman, says it’s time for the university to go in another direction.
"He’s a vital part to our school as a whole and we all love him, but it’s time for someone new," Hoff said of Bowden. "We have a lot of talent right now. I think we can be successful in the time coming."
A loss tonight in the nationally televised game would only increase the pressure on Bowden, who is less than a month away from his 80th birthday. Bowden and his Seminoles would face 12 days of second-guessing before their next game — another nationally televised game Oct. 22 at North Carolina.
This past week board of Trustees chairman Jim Smith called for Bowden to retire at season’s end following a loss at Boston College. The Florida State administration also said this week that Bowden’s coaching future will be decided at the end of the season. And the rules have changed. It’s no longer Bowden’s option.
"I will evaluate the program with the athletics director at the end of this season," Florida State president T.K. Wetherell said this week, adding that he expects "our teams to be competitive."
Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher is Wetherell’s choice to succeed Bowden and his contract to become head coach is being updated.
Bowden has repeatedly indicated he plans to coach through the 2010 season. Fisher’s present contract calls for the school to pay him $5 million if he is not the head coach by January 2011.
Some dissident students on Facebook are calling for a "Black Out Doak for Change," tonight, encouraging fans to wear black to the game to emphasize their sentiments that it’s time for Bowden to leave the very field named after him.
"This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "You would think he has done enough so that he can go out on his own terms. He put Florida State on the map with what he did."
Bowden has rejected the retirement overtures, and his assistants were denying reports of dissension among their ranks. The hometown newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, said it was time to step down.
"If you listen to your critics, you’ll be sitting up there with ‘em," Bowden said. "If I was 40 years old, I’d been shaking in my boots. But I’m 79."
Bowden’s future has dominated the news in Tallahassee. It has been the lead story on the Democrat’s front page all week as well as the focus of radio talk shows across Florida and Internet Web sites and chat rooms.
Athletics Director Randy Spetman acknowledged most e-mails coming to his office were not supportive of the venerable coach.
Johnson expects there will be tremendous support for the embattled coach during tonight’s game and that the Seminoles will be fired up.
"I certainly think they’ll be circling the wagons," Johnson said. "I fully expect them to have their best effort of the year. I think they’ll come out wired and ready to play."
Bowden, who has won 384 games, is counting on it.