A year and a half ago, Bobby Bowden wasn’t ready to leave Florida State. The legendary coach was hoping to stay on for one more season. Now, with the pressure off of him and plenty of it coming down on other prominent coaches from prominent college football programs, he couldn’t be happier.
In the wake of the troubles at Ohio State, Bowden has emerged to say, like many others, that it’s just not possible to run a completely clean program. His at Florida State fell under NCAA scrutiny multiple times, including once in 1993, an event that he talks about during the following interview.
Bowden says he spent at least one week every year bringing in several different types of speakers to avoid his players getting into trouble, but when it came down to it, it was all about whether his players were honest or not. He sounds pretty glad to no longer be guessing whether they were truthful or not.
Bobby Bowden joined KDUS in Phoenix with Chuck and Vince to discuss the recent events at Ohio State and how that situation was handled, how much time he spent trying to make sure things like that didn’t happen at Florida State, how much it hurt him when they did occur, if paying athletes would take care of the problem or if some of them would always want more, why it’s not possible to run a completely clean program and how he’s loving life without the pressure of being a coach.
On NCAA violations in college football and the recent events at Ohio State:
“A coach can be perfectly clean and his program also, then he can have one kid that’s dishonest that can go out and hurt the whole program. It’s amazing. Ohio State is one of those jobs you don’t have to cheat. They’re going to come there anyway. Whether they did or not is not for me to say, but I’m very surprised.”
What did you think of how Ohio State handled the situation?:
“When I first read about it in the paper, the first thing that occurred that some of the boys were selling jerseys. I can sympathize with Coach because that can happen anywhere. There were times at my school where I had to say, ‘Hey boys, you can’t do that.’ And I had to run and check and be sure they wasn’t signing autographs and getting paid and things like that. … As a coach, we have to get the message across to those boys. But again, if they are dishonest, you’re going to have problems.”
When he was a coach, how much time did he spend making sure these things weren’t happening?:
“We spent a lot of time at Florida State, especially the first two weeks in the summer. The school usually was not on and you had those boys all day long. You could meet with them as many times as you want. I would spend at least a week bringing in speakers. I’d bring in a policeman to talk about the laws of the community. I’d bring in educators to talk about academics. I’d bring in preachers to talk about the values. … I think most schools do that. But again, it gets down to the individual. Where Coach [Tressel] made a mistake, and it really surprised me … is he should have reported that thing immediately to his people and maybe he could’ve survived and they could’ve straightened it out.”
How much did it hurt him when his Florida State program got caught up in scandals?:
“We had a similar situation back in 1993 when we won our first national championship. We had agents come to Tallahassee from way out there, I think they were from Las Vegas. … They came and went by our boys’ apartments and talked to them and took them out to supper and took them to a store where they could buy anything they wanted. Some of our kids did and I didn’t know anything about it. Then we found out and we had to suspend boys and do things like that. So it can occur to anybody. And of course they really come after the teams that win it.”
Would paying college athletes take care of this problem?:
“I think it would help. My answer is yes if they are honest. If they aren’t honest, nothing helps. … When I was in college back in the 40s and 50s, scholarship was room, board, tuition, fees, books and 15 dollars a month. Fifteen dollars back then is probably worth about 100 today. I have always felt like these football players should [get all of that] and 100 dollars a month. Of course I recommended that, but you can’t do it because you’ve got 18, 19, 20 other sports.”
But even if players would get paid, wouldn’t there be some that still always wanted more?:
“That is as old as history as. Like I say, you’ve always got dishonest people. When you’re dealing with 100 boys, they’re not always going to be choirboys.”
Is there any way to run an entirely clean program?:
“No. And by that I don’t mean that some coaches purposely try to break the rules. I mean, I don’t care how good you are. Let’s just say it’s raining and one of your boys has to go to school and he’s two miles away and some booster drives by and sees him, picks him up and carries him to school. Well, that’s a violation. … You can’t cover all that stuff. It’s going to happen. What you have to do, what do you do about it? Well, you self-report it. You’ve got to turn yourself in. If you turn yourself in for something like that, they’ll usually excuse you and don’t let it happen again.”
Given all of this, is there part of him that is glad he’s out of coaching and doesn’t have to deal with this anymore?:
“You know what, I did want one more year. I only wanted one more year and didn’t get it. But you know what, I coached for 57 years. … When I retired a year and a half ago, I could just feel the pressure come off my shoulders. I didn’t have to worry about boys, I didn’t have to worry about ‘Are they getting in trouble?’ I didn’t have to worry about ‘Are we going to sign John?’ I didn’t have to worry, ‘Is this girl pregnant?’ I had to worry about the 2 o’clock football. It’s a lot of pressure off when you get out of it.”