Don’t let Bobby get away

Published 7:25 pm Friday, December 4, 2009

Here comes a suggestion that is really wacko, off the wall, as the saying goes.

Bobby Bowden for president (of Florida State University).

After 34 seasons, Bowden this week announced his retirement from coaching FSU football. In addition, T.K. Wetherell earlier announced his retirement as university president.

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The FSU board of trustees seeks a new president with a primary function of fund-raising.

Who better to be the FSU front runner for fund-raising than Bobby Bowden?

Now you might say he’s too old at 80 to take on the rigors of president of a major university, a university facing a plethora of budget problems in the next few years, one in need of millions of new dollars to survive.

But it can be done with the same management approach to the presidency as was organized with Coach Bowden’s football successor.

Knowing Bowden would soon end his coaching career, the university hired offensive coach Jimbo Fisher, as “coach in waiting,” solving the problem of a Bowden successor.

Let’s do the same with the presidency. Name Bowden president, then find a young vigorous person to be “president in waiting,” an administrator of the highest caliber.

Bowden’s main objective would be fund-raiser, having the added clout of “president.” And who could better fill that role than he. Here is a man who is held in the highest esteem, not simply because he is a winning football coach, but because of the character and integrity that he exemplifies.

Academics might howl—egad!, selecting a football coach as a university president. My guess is it has been done elsewhere, and would not be a wacko idea pulled from a hat.

Now I have never met Coach Bowden, but the paper on which my degree is printed also says Florida State University, so there’s a connection. Daughter, daughter-in-law and son-in-law also hold similar papers.

When Wetherell resigned, it was believed he knew there were great financial challenges ahead for the university, and he didn’t have the health or stamina to do it all—raise money, balance dwindling budgets, laying off faculty, canceling academic programs, plus all the other administrative duties required of the job.

In 1960, as a reporter for the Florida Flambeau, the campus newspaper, I was given the assignment to interview key FSU faculty and ask the question, “Do you believe in 25 years, Florida State University will be one of the top 25 universities in the nation? And why?”

I can’t remember the exact answers, but everyone was positive, pointing out all the new academic and research programs ongoing by the university faculty and students.

Twenty-five years hence would mean that by 1985, FSU would be among the biggies. In 1976, Bowden was hired as head football coach, and defeated Kansas State that year for the first of many victories yet to come, the football program pushing the university into bigtime.

So, was FSU a biggie top 25 in 1985? I don’t know, because I was busy with my own young career at the time, and wasn’t paying much attention, and had long ago forgotten about my 1960s assignment.

But one can say it has become true today, and none other than T.K. Wetherell himself who said this week that Bowden “became the face of Florida State University. It was his sterling personality and character that personifies this university. And because his influence was so powerful, we were able to advance far beyond what many of us ever dreamed.”

You can’t retire yet, coach. You have a president’s job to do and millions of dollars to raise. We ask one small concession—you can keep your favorite saying “dadgummit” but ya gotta quit saying “ain’t.”