Tuesday Question - Bowden's Samford Wins

Posted Mar 10, 2009

Tuesday Question ... Do you have a problem with Bobby Bowden's wins at Samford counting in the all-time race, and do you have a problem with the idea of FSU vacating wins?

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- The BCS Champ Will Be ...
- If Missouri beats OU, who should play for the national title?
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Favorite college football rivalry
- One change to the BCS
- What one-loss team should play for NC?
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- Top Week 1 Games
- Predict the 2008 Season
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- Did the BCS get it right?
- Who deserves a spot more, OSU or WVU?

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- 10 Greatest Playmakers of All-Time
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Pete Fiutak     

Q: Do you have a problem with Bobby Bowden's wins at Samford counting in the all-time race, and do you have a problem with the idea of FSU vacating wins?

A: I only have a problem with the wins over teams that weren't a part of the college football world. The win over the 1959 Tennessee Tech freshman squad shouldn't count, and neither should the 1959 win over Gordon Junior College or the 1962 win over the University of Mexico. I have the bigger problem with counting the 1983 forfeited loss to Tulane. That wasn't like it was a powerhouse Tulane team beating up a rising Florida State; it was the opposite situation. The Seminole program was tremendous by then and it was a major upset that ended up being counted on the FSU record books because of NCAA sanctions against Tulane.

I hate having to dog Bowden or his career in any way. He's one of the legends of the sport who has more often than not taken the high road when it comes to off the field issues. There are several instances of wrongdoing that would've been swept under the rug by other programs or other coaches. But if we're really going to compare the careers of Bowden and Joe Paterno, Paterno's overall body of work is stronger.

As far as vacating wins, that's just ridiculous. Go ahead and punish the program going forward if you must, but outside of gambling issues or cheating (and I'll throw steroids in that mix ... good luck with that can of worms), vacating wins doesn't do anything and it shouldn't count against Bowden's record. I don't blame Bowden for the cheating scandal because it happened across the FSU athletic program. He shouldn't be punished.

Richard Cirminiello      

Q: Do you have a problem with Bobby Bowden's wins at Samford counting in the all-time race, and do you have a problem with the idea of FSU vacating wins?

A: Counting those wins at Samford, or Howard when Bowden was coaching there, never made much sense to me. Still doesn’t. Why doesn’t Major League Baseball add Tony LaRussa’s wins when he was with the AAA New Orleans Zephyrs? It’s all professional baseball, right? Or how about Marv Levy for that year he spent with the Chicago Blitz of the USFL? The fact is that Bowden was competing in a different league, the minor leagues of college football, when he won those 31 games between 1959 and 1962. Just as a point of comparison, would anyone ever crown a back who played his first two years at Florida State and his final two at Samford as the all-time rushing champ? Of course not. The same standards should apply to coaching records.

Regarding the current NCAA sanctions, I won’t miss a wink of sleep if Florida State is forced to vacate a few wins. Assuming the Seminoles used some ineligible players along the way, where exactly is the grey area? I’m guessing Bowden had no knowledge of the academic misdoings, but the reality is that they occurred when he was in charge, so he’s got to pay the price. If some of the players were not eligible student-athletes, some of the victories shouldn’t count. Period.

Matthew Zemek

Q: Do you have a problem with Bobby Bowden's wins at Samford counting in the all-time race, and do you have a problem with the idea of FSU vacating wins?

A: Neither item is problematic, in my mind. Samford didn't exactly play the likes of Navy, Syracuse and Texas in the late 1950s and early '60s, but longevity should bring its own rewards... as should success at any level of competition, even if its the lower end of the football food chain.
But for anyone who had their knickers in a twist over the entry of the Samford victories in Bowden's official win column, perhaps this academic fraud balances things out.
Should Bowden deserve withering scrutiny for this incident? Not really. Some coaches do run renegade programs in big-time football and basketball, and ought to be taken to task for doing so. Bowden has had his share of police-blotter embarrassments at Florida State, and while that's nothing to be proud of, the larger reality is that the sexier sports schools attract the shadiest sharks and the most dubious dealers in the athletic-industrial complex. Steve Spurrier wasn't immune to this (Tank) Black mark at Florida, and even a man as upstanding as Larry Coker endured some cringe-worthy moments at Miami. Pete Carroll couldn't effectively police Reggie Bush or Dwayne Jarrett at USC (among a few others), and Jim Tressel had this kid... Whatshisname? Oh, yeah... Maurice Clarett... at Ohio State. Sadly but surely, most of the big names on the block, especially in football, are not immune to the ugly side of college sports. Coaches are responsible for their programs, but at the same time, they're not the gods or messiahs or all-preventing crime protectors they're often made out to be.
Bobby Bowden is responsible for this only to the extent that he bears a position of responsibility. He shouldn't be raked over the coals, but the vacating of 14 wins seems like a reasonable sanction that, without the Joe Paterno factor, would be garnering precious little media attention. (Had Bowden been just 13 games ahead of Bear Bryant at the time of this incident, national buzz would have re-emerged.)
Notre Dame fans will view this as cosmic payback for 1993. Florida fans will view this as divine retribution for the 1999 season, a year in which Peter Warrick and Sebastian Janikowski were let off the hook for various indiscretions. In the end, keep the Samford wins and allow this not-so-fun "vacation" to stand. Bobby Bowden's place in college football history is no less secure, or elevated, as a result of this latest episode in Tallahassee.