FSU’s expensive gamble

December 20, 2009

Well, here’s the good and the bad about Jimbo Fisher’s 5-year, $9 million deal with FSU.

The good: Paying more for performance. Fisher will get paid bonuses – as much as $250,000 – if he were to lead the Seminoles to a national championship.

The bad: FSU – which is in the midst of a leadership transition – decided to lock up Fisher to an expensive, long-term contract right before President T.K. Wetherell steps down. So now we have an incoming university president wedded to a football coach who has yet to prove if he is capable of being a head coach.

And even though it was time for Bobby Bowden to step down this move could eventually backfire on FSU officials.

FSU didn’t launch a nationwide search for Bowden’s successor. Instead they named Fisher head coach in waiting after his first year on the job hoping that Nick Saban’s success would rub off on his former offensive coordinator.

The pressure to win and win now will be enormous. Fisher will get no grace period from fans since he has been at FSU since 2007 and the players who will suit up next fall are guys that he helped recruit.

Those same fans – who wanted him so badly to take over – will hold Fisher to a pretty high standard. Bowden won two national championships during his legendary span as coach before the program sank into mediocrity. But the fans won’t remember the bad times under Bowden. If Fisher can’t get FSU to a title game the howls for his head will grow quickly and loudly. Just ask former Gators coach Ron Zook how easy it is to follow a popular coach with a pretty good track record.

Two or three years from now the FSU faithful could be wondering whether if they made an expensive gamble by locking in Fisher to a long-term lucrative contract. This is no small matter. FSU’s athletic department is self-sustaining and must turn to donations from the Seminole Boosters in order to balance its books. The day could come when donors are asked to kick in more money to convince a coach to head to the exit.

So what now for FSU?

November 10, 2009

The devastating news that Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder will miss the rest of the season seems unfortunately like a fitting end to this dismal season for the Seminoles.

Without their top offensive player, it seems all but certain that FSU will be unable to muster the 2 wins it needs in order to become bowl eligible. It’ s hard to imagine that this team can put together an effective enough offensive attack to win on the road at either Wake Forest or Florida.

So now Ponder is gone for the rest of the year. Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews is leaving after this season. And…..what’s next?

While FSU officials have said they will evaluate the direction of the program after the season, head coach Bobby Bowden has sent signals that he wants one more year at the helm. Bowden has also suggested that he should have a say in who should replace Andrews.

This is just a recipe for another disaster in the coming year.

At some point there has to be some accountability. At some point Bowden – who preaches the need for teamwork – has to realize it’s not about him anymore. It’s about the team, it’s about the program, it’s about the university. He has been duly rewarded with money, with fame, with honors during his masterful coaching career.

But at the end of the day what signal does it send to young players that some people don’t have to worry about their performance? Doesn’t that go against everything that football supposedly teaches? Why I should have to try hard if the coach doesn’t.

There’s no doubt that Bowden is owed tremendous amounts of gratitude by the FSU faithful. But if FSU ends the season without a bowl, without a winning season, then it is time to say thank you and move on. FSU can’t afford yet another season like this one if it wants to remain one of the top college football programs in America.

Black Friday for FSU kicks off Bowden must go chatter

March 7, 2009

So, is this how it ends for Bobby Bowden? Not with a bang, but with a whimper?

Even though the NCAA’s investigation into the FSU online cheating scandal targeted athletes across all sports its the impact on Bowden that is drawing the most attention.

The fact that FSU and Bowden could be forced to forfeit up to 14 games makes it highly unlikely that Bowden will ever surpass Joe Paterno in the all-time wins list. And although FSU says it will fight any attempt to take away victories, some sports columnists wasted little time in proclaiming that it was time for Bobby to go in the wake of the NCAA decision. Another columnist said that this could unfairly hurt his legacy.

Hmm. Seminoles fans will likely view the time to go refrain with disdain since it came from the Tampa Tribune – whose connections with the Florida Gators over the years has always drawn suspicion. If I remember correctly, the late Bill McGrotha once wrote an entire column questioning the Tribune’s motives.

But it’s hard to believe that Bowden would take this push out the door so willingly.

Now more than ever, he will probably want one more season to go out on top with at least a conference championship and a bowl win. And even if he can’t catch JoePa there would be a lot of satisfaction in going out a winner. Of course, don’t even get me started on Jimbo Fisher, who I still think hasn’t proved anything yet.

There will be plenty of times to write Bowden’s football obituary. But I’m not sure that time is now.

End of Bowden intrigue doesn’t clear up FSU mess

January 29, 2009
Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Sports Addict Gary Fineout

After a bit of delay, Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden signed a contract extension this week, thereby ensuring that Bowden will coach the Seminoles for at least one more season.

But this hasn’t stopped the blogosphere and talk radio from constantly buzzing about the mess that still surrounds FSU. First there is the still not completely explained reason that Bowden did not quickly sign his new deal. Then there is the pending NCAA investigation that hovers over FSU athletics with radio hosts on Tallahassee radio going as far to speculate that FSU could be forced to forfeit football games. Their take: Does Bowden really want to stick around if he dropped further behind Joe Paterno in the all-time wins list?

Bowden bashers have already weighed in with their dismay that he is still the coach, suggesting it is time to make way for heir-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher.

I just can’t get there. And no, it’s not that I think that Bowden has earned the right to decide when he should retire. I think it’s better to wait for another season and hope that this intractable situation will work itself out on its own. That’s because I am still not sold on Fisher – and – just as importantly I think that the search for Bowden’s successor should be a wide open affair at the time that Bowden actually steps down.

At this point in time, I could make a cogent argument that bounced Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden has credentials equal to Fisher. I’m not saying that Bowden’s son deserves the job, but you get the picture. FSU fans should realize that the entire world of college football could dramatically change in a season and they could have a whole host of good contenders to follow Bowden. And just as importantly, fans would get another year to see whether or not Fisher can return the team to glory. Plus, it will good to see how Fisher responds to pressure. There will be greatly increased expectations that the offensive unit will take a step forward with so many key players returning.

With another year, FSU and its fans can see whether its worth hanging on to Fisher or whether its worth paying him $5 million to go someplace else. Given the fact that Fisher has previously entertained offers to bolt the Seminoles there is a distinct possibility that he won’t stick around anyway. Yes, I know that he has a clause that forces him to pay FSU if he leaves. But I bet that both sides would be willing to waive that penalty if everyone thought it was good to part ways.

Fearless bowl predictions

December 20, 2008
Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Sports Addict Gary Fineout

While I have a lot of reservations about the fact that we can have 34 bowls that feature teams that barely made it to a .500 record, it is still a fairly remarkable feat that five college teams from Florida made it to the postseason. It’s another reminder that Florida remains a state rich in football talent, a fact which helped all these programs succeed this season.

But getting to a bowl game isn’t the same as winning. Here’s my fearless bowl predictions for the next three weeks of college football madness.

BCS National Championship Game (Florida vs. Oklahoma): The worst thing about the college post-season is the long layoff. There’s always a small concern that a team that has been playing with such forceful momentum will get out of sync. But since October I said time and time again that the Gators have been playing some of the best college football I have ever seen. The Gators offense can keep pace with the Sooners offense in what could be a high-scoring game. But I continue to think that people have overlooked the UF defense. I think it is good enough to put the brakes on the Oklahoma high-wire act and I bet Coach Urban Meyer will put in a game plan that will emphasize long, time-consuming drives to keep the Sooners off the field. Florida 35, Oklahoma 24

Emerald Bowl (Miami vs. California): So is having your inconsistent starting quarterback suspended for the game a blessing or a curse? Well, we’ll soon find out as the Canes have to play the Golden Bears without QB Robert Marve. But even though this is close to a home game for California, the Canes have enough talent to win this game provided the defense shows up. This could be the game that sets the stage for Miami’s return next year as a national contender. Miami 34, California 27

Champs Sports Bowl (Florida State vs. Wisconsin): There are so many reasons I should pick against FSU. Inconsistent quarterback play. The collapse of the defense in the final weeks of the regular season. The weekly reconfiguration of the playbook by FSU head coach in waiting Jimbo Fisher. But here’s what I will say about Fisher and defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews. I think both of them have had enough time before this game to probably come up with a game plan that will work. The Badgers themselves have had loads of problems with their quarterbacks and the team had to go into overtime to beat a Division 1-AA team. (Sorry, I can’t go along with that nonsense that changed their classification to Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision.) Florida State 24, Wisconsin 14.

Motor City Bowl (Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan):I know that Coach Howard Schnellenberger has never lost a bowl game in his storied career. But then again, I’m not sure he ever took a 6-6 team into a bowl game that is essentially played in the opponent’s back yard. I just don’t think FAU even belongs in a bowl. Central Michigan 28, FAU 10.

magicjack St. Petersburg Bowl (University of South Florida vs. Memphis):This is of course not where the Bulls wanted to end up but that’ s what happens when you lose five out of your last seven games.  I’m also trying to figure out who thought it was a great idea to play a football game at Tropicana Field. Memphis does have a solid running attack. But I don’t think USF is going to play poorly in what is essentially a home game against a team that just made it to .500. USF 28, Memphis 17