Bobby Bowden's new book, "Called to Coach," hits bookstands Tuesday, promising to deliver more than eight decades' worth of insight on "life, faith and football." If his latest interview with the Sporting News is any indication, readers can also expect a heavy dose of bitter score-settling over the legendary coach's 34th and final season at Florida State. It came down to a grim late-November meeting with then-FSU president (and one-time Bowden player) T.K. Wetherell over Bowden's intention to return for a "promised" victory lap in 2010:
"First thing [Wetherell] says is, 'This ain't gonna be pretty.' It went downhill from there," Bowden said. "Those were his first words; I couldn't believe it. He said, 'You have two options: One is to stay on as an ambassador coach for one more year. You can still be the coach, but we don’t want you to go on the field.' I'd get paid for doing nothing. That's stealing from FSU. I said, 'That's out, forget it. What's the other option?' He said, 'We don’t renew your contract.'"
Bowden says when he was told in 2007 that [then-offensive coordinator Jimbo] Fisher was going to be named coach-in-waiting, he told Wetherell that he wanted longtime defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews to follow him as head coach. He says Wetherell responded, "That's not going to happen." Bowden said Wetherell never told him of Fisher's $5 million buyout [if he wasn't named head coach by January 2011], and that he "read a lot of that in the newspaper."
"(Wetherell) never discussed it with me," Bowden said. "They weren't going to pay that $5 million. Let me say this: I was being phased out. But they promised me one more year (than I got); it was set in stone."
That essentially confirms the standard account of the old coach's ouster, which was presented as a retirement following FSU's 37-10 loss to Florida over Thanksgiving weekend but never resembled anything of the sort. Bowden consistently suggested before and during the season that he planned to be back in 2010, but he never really stood a chance after the chair of the university's board of trustees publicly turned against him in early October, on the heels of an 0-2 start in ACC play. No one wants to use the word, but from Bowden's own account, it's entirely fair to say Florida State fired the second-winningest coach in Division I history.
For his part, the now-retired Wetherell says nothing at all to counter Bowden's acrimony, admitting Monday in his own interview with the Palm Beach Post to a "strained" relationship with the old coach that he can only hope will be reconciled over time: "That's the business he is in and that's the business I was in. I would love to have the opportunity at some point to reconnect, play golf, have a barbecue. I think it's going to take some time to get there from his perspective." Presumably he will not be asking Bobby for any autographed copies.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.