Read Sports Geek’s argument that a coach with a long and impressive history should be able to decide his own exit from the game, regardless of his recent effectiveness, and Babe Ruthless’ argument that an ineffective coach should be forced out, regardless of his tenure within the position.
It is the end of an era at Florida State. Since 1976, the Seminole football program has been led by one man – Bobby Bowden. Following a season that started with promise, only to end in disappointment, Bowden has “decided” to announce his retirement.
During Bowden’s legendary tenure at FSU, he was responsible for leading his football program to 12 Conference championships, two national championships (in 1993 and 1999), and he will make his curtain-call at his 29th CONSECUTIVE bowl game! It SHOULD be a remarkable end to an illustrious career, but unfortunately the reason for Bowden’s exit from the game has marred what would have otherwise been the celebration of an illustrious career.
Bowden was the very symbol of college football success during the 1980s and 1990s. During that time, his Seminoles finished 14 consecutive seasons ranked as a top-five team in the nation, with those two national championships as icing on the cake. His teams also set an NCAA record during that span by winning 11 consecutive bowl games. In 2004, however, Florida State began to disappoint the Seminole fans. At least, the team disappointed by Bobby Bowden standards.
Two thousand and three marked the last season that Florida State would finish a season with at least ten wins, and although the program has not finished with a record worse than 7-6 since that time, the Seminoles have clearly seen a drop in stature. They have not finished better than 15th in the nation, and actually closed the 2006 and 2007 seasons unranked.
Upon the conclusion of the 2007 season something very interesting happened. Bowden’s offensive coordinator, Jimbo Fisher, was appointed as the “head coach-in waiting,” having been officially declared Bowden’s successor, although Bowden had given no indication that he was ready to retire. On one hand it was a wise decision because Bowden, who was 78 at the time, was likely to retire sooner rather than later. Instead of waiting for him to make the decision and then scrambling to find a suitable replacement, FSU was able to plan for the inevitable changing of the guard. On the other hand, it created a potentially tenuous situation. While Bowden would officially remain head coach of the team, everyone knew it was Jimbo Fisher who would eventually be calling the shots.
The situation reached a boiling point during the 2009 season. Following comments made by a university trustee after the Seminoles lost to Boston College on October 3rd it became clear that the school’s boosters were intent on seeing Bowden replaced at the end of the season. As the remaining weeks of the season played out, many people (including Bowden’s wife, Ann) began to develop the impression that Bowden was being forced out of Florida State.
The controversy created a very difficult situation for Florida State. On one hand, they had a legendary coach who had brought and sustained the highest level of success to the school for a very long time. On the other hand, that coach failed to live up to expectations over a lengthy period. After setting the bar very high during his tenure, he ultimately reached a point where he was no longer able to live up to those standards of excellence. If only they had called The Sports Debates for a little guidance…
When a tenured and one-time highly successful coach demonstrates an inability to regain that success, should they still be permitted the license to orchestrate their own exit, or is the school right to force the issue by replacing the coach – regardless of their legacy?
In addressing this question, Sports Geek will argue that the coach has earned the right, over a long and prestigious career, to exit his position under his own terms. Babe Ruthless will argue that the school has the right to force a coach out to preserve its interests TODAY, rather than sacrifice them at the price of success from years past.
While it may be too late to help Florida State out, I am sure that Joe Paterno will be following this debate with rapt attention!