To wrap up the 2008 football season, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden spoke with the media by teleconference Friday morning. He discussed his contract situation, as well as the status of assistant coaches Mickey Andrews and Rick Trickett. He also talked about the South Florida series and the possibility of playing Miami on Labor Day this fall. Here is a transcript of that conversation.
Q: Coach, you said after the bowl that you were going to talk with the administration and tell them you planned to come back. Have you had those conversations?
A: Yeah, I've already talked to our athletic director. The details – whatever they are – haven't been signed or anything. But we all agree.
Q: You've said before that you'd like to get to 400 wins. So there's an assumption that you'd like to coach to 2010.
A: Well, I need to try to stay away from numbers, because people start counting. "Oh, he's got two games left. Oh, he's got five games left." So all I'll say is after each year, I will either ask for another year or not.
Q: Before the bowl game, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said he was leaning toward coming back. Have you spoken with him about that?
A: I've talked to him. He's planning on coming back.
Q: Everette Brown recently announced that he was going to leave for the NFL. Did you speak to him at all before he decided?
A: Oh yes. He came and talk to me. I told him all the things that I thought. He did a lot of listening. And when he left my office, I really wasn't sure what he would do. Then he called and said he decided to go ahead and come out. I looked back – he's got his degree in his hands. Now if he can go as high as he might go, I think he did the right thing.
Q: He had such a good season with 13.5 sacks. How will you be able to replace that production and the other players you are losing?
A: The next guys moves up. It's no different with him than it has been with all the other players we have had here. We've had quite a few down through the years that have come out of here early. You just move to the next man. What it does is it creates a great opportunity for somebody else. So if you're bringing in a freshman, he likes that because he might have a better shot. Or the guys that were second or third team, they might move up. All you do is move up, it's the same all over the country.
Q: Could you talk about the national championship game and your thoughts on where Florida is right now?
A: I only watched about a quarter and a half before I fell asleep. I think the score was 7-7. I tried to watch it; I just don't stay up late. But Florida won, which I predicted. My thoughts – and I said this publicly – that I thought that Florida's defense might be a little bit stronger and that Tebow would probably made the difference. I've read the paper's account, and it sounds like some of that's true. It doesn't surprise me.
Q: What are your thoughts about Utah being undefeated and finishing second, while Florida wins the national title with a loss?
A: That's a dog-gone good question, and it's a question we're going to get every year. The way we have with the BCS, it's liable to happen every year. Three or four years ago it happened to Auburn – undefeated and couldn't get a smell. But that's the way the BCS is set up, that the winner of that game is the national champion. So that makes Florida the national champion. ... But what happened to Utah could happen every year.
Q: Have you been a proponent of the BCS over the years?
A: Well, I haven't been a proponent of a playoff. And I think that's what you call old-fashioned. Coaching 55 years, playing it or being involved 10 years before that, so you say 65 years – I've never known a playoff. We never had playoffs in I-A football. So I know no difference. I can accept it as it is. Now, the BCS we feel is the best method of deciding, so I go along with it. Now is it foolproof? No, we see it every year, because there might be somebody else more deserving. And you can't answer those questions until you get a playoff. So the question is, are we ever going to have a playoff? I would imagine some day we will, but I don't think it will come in my time.
Q: How difficult has it been to recruit without knowing how many scholarships you might be down because of this pending NCAA ruling?
A: Well, we have to be flexible in our recruiting. But we've got a general idea, and we'll probably have to stay on the safe side of it and hope for the best when the decision is made.
Q: Are you getting antsy about that, having to wait for that to be resolved?
A: Naturally you'd like to go and get it resolved. Get it behind you.
A: We have no idea what [the NCAA] will do on that.
Q: Are you going to appeal it?
A: We plan to appeal it.
Q: It sounds like most of your juniors are coming back. Have you talked to any others besides Everette Brown? Like Preston Parker?
A: No, I haven't talked to those guys. I'd hate to say what I think [they'll do], because they might be thinking just the opposite. The fact that they haven't talked to me makes me feel like they're going to be back. But you don't know.
Q: Back to your contract, Jimbo's contract calls for him to be paid $5 million if he isn't the coach for the 2011 season. Can we take something away from that?
A: You can if you want to, but I really won't delve into that.
Q: Did all your players make it through that semester academically? Is everyone coming back OK?
A: I haven't had any notification of anybody out. If that is going to happen, I haven't been notified.
Q: The final AP poll came out, and you are ranked No. 21 after a 9-4 season. Is that kind of where you hoped you would be at this point?
A: Well, we sure would like to be back in there. We naturally would rather be higher. Probably with one more win, you could have been around 11 or 12. But that's what we're shooting for, to get back up there.
Q: The school recently announced that you will be playing South Florida next year. Could you talk about that game and the USF program?
A: Well, we needed a game and we called just about everybody in the country. We've called everybody in Florida. And South Florida was the only one that could work it out. A lot of times schools would like to do it, but they can't work it out on their schedules. I think the big plus is this: They'll fill the stadium. We bring in Western Carolina, we bring in Chattanooga, and we can't fill our stadium. We can't pay the bills like you'd like.
Q: Also on the topic of scheduling, there's talk that the ACC would like to get you and Miami to play again on Labor Day in 2009. And you already have a pretty challenging schedule with BYU on the road, Florida on the road and some tough conference games on the road. Now adding USF as well. It seems like that will be a pretty tough schedule.
A: Well, it does look tough. And there is a chance that that Miami game will be moved up to the start of the season. I'm not sure if either coach is jumping up and down about that. I don't know how [Randy] Shannon feels about that. It's got pluses, and it's got minuses. But I think the ACC wants to put a lot of pressure on making that happen, because the game is so popular nationwide. So what's going to happen there, we'll just have to wait and see.
Q: Offensively, your passing statistics weren't very good this past fall. What do you guys need to do this offseason and spring to help bring that around?
A: We'll, we've got to work on it more. We tried to upgrade our running game, which we have. And talking with Coach Fisher after our last game, he said, "Buddy, we're going to get on that passing game this year. We're going to get on it starting in spring training." So that will be one of our goals, to improve in that area. Now, there's a hidden statistic in there that you might want to look at. Let's take our quarterback, Ponder. You look at the numbers and the percentages, and maybe they're not as high as somebody else. But, you look at his third-down production – his third-down production is pretty good. Now let's say you have a passer in the country that's throwing the ball all the time, he's got a lot of yards, and he's completing 66 percent of his passes. But he ain't making third downs. ... There your success may not be as good. I had a feeling our quarterback was very productive last year, although his numbers may not show it. And that's based on the fact that he continued to lead us making first downs on third down.
Q: What do you think are some of the places you can work on with the offense to improve the passing game?
A: That's a good question. We've improved on the goal line. We've improved in the red zone. We're probably improved on third down. The big thing is just trying to get sharper blocking, so whatever you did, you can do better – running the ball better, throwing the ball better and being more productive on your kicking game.
Q: You mentioned earlier that Mickey was planning to come back. Was there any doubt in your mind? Did you have any serious talks about that?
A: There was none in my mind. A coach will usually tell me if he's planning on leaving. Mickey just dropped by about two days ago and said he's planning on coming back. Naturally, I told him how happy that made me, and that's where that ended.
Q: I know you can't talk about specifics in recruiting, but if you had a wish list, what would be on it.
A: I think the first thing you'd love to do is you'd love to fill your needs. You can have an outstanding all-star signing day, like we've had in the past, and you still might not solve your needs. Then you go into the season with a need. Then you'd like to get a dominating football player, no matter what position. You like to get a dominating player, somebody that can make plays and win games for you by making outstanding plays.
Q: Coach Trickett only has one more year left on his contract. Is it important to wrap him up with a longer-term deal?
A: We'd sure hate to lose him, let's just say that. As far as the terms of the contract, I won't get into that.
Q: Could you talk about the value he has with the program?
A: He's done exactly what I hoped he could do, and that's make us more accomplished on the offensive line. I think our blocking has improved. I think our pass protection has been better. Next year will be the first since he's been here that he goes there with a complete offensive starting line returning.
Q: One of those games against South Florida may not happen until after you're done coaching here. Did you talk to Jimbo at all about playing them and what his thoughts were?
A: Our athletic director and (associate AD) Andy Urbanic have talked to Jimbo about it.
Q: Have you talked to him at all about what he thought about it?
A: I haven't had a chance to talk to him. He's been on the road and he'll be back this week. I'm sure we'll discuss it.
Q: On recruiting, are there specific areas you'd like to fill.
A: You'd take a great player, no matter what he played, just to get him. You'd like to have so many defensive corners, so many defensive safeties, so many offensive linemen. You'd like to have them at that number. But you'd like to have a great player, no matter what he plays.
Q: What are your thoughts on an early signing period? It sounds like the idea's gaining some traction.
A: I've got a feeling that the majority of our coaches want that. I'm one that, yeah, I'm in favor of moving it up, but let's move it up a week. The talk is moving it from February to December. That's a pretty big jump. That means you're recruiting all through football season. You're so busy with games, you can't give the kid the attention you'd like to. I've got something a lot of these coaches don't have. I was coaching back when we signed people in December. Between December and the first Wednesday in February, I'll take the first Wednesday in February. But we're usually wrapped up a week early, so I wouldn't hesitate at all to move it up a week.
Q: Will there be any coaching changes in the offseason that you anticipate?
A: I don't know of any. Next month, the AFCA conference is next week, so that's when a lot of changes are made.
Q: Is Jeff going to go with Terry to (the University of North Alabama)?
A: He might. He's going up there to look things over, so he might.
A: He's supposed to be back, probably is. I think I would have heard if he didn't come back.
Q: With FSU still waiting to hear about the NCAA ruling, are the coaches expressing any concern?
A: No. We all know where we stand. We all know what could happen. I think we know pretty good what could happen, because our university has tried to handle this thing exactly how they think the NCAA would handle it based on cases before us. I haven't any coaches that are alarmed. We'd like to have full count, but I think I know where we stand.
Q: It sounds like something that could be used as negative recruiting against Florida State.
A: They could, and I'm sure that, if there's any way they can, they will. That's how this game works. We think we get a pretty good reception.
Q: Before the bowl game, D'Vontrey Richardson was planning to play baseball and thought about switching positions in football. Have you had any talks with him?
A: I haven't, but our coaches are on the road and we don't get to converse. They get back in this weekend and I'll find out the answer to a lot of these things. I haven't talked to him about it. He said he
wanted to play baseball and he had mentioned to me about changing positions. How serious he was about that, I don't know. He might have conversed with some of the other coaches and they might have the correct, up-to-date answer on that.
Q: Other coaches have gone with this coach-in-waiting scenario. You're two years into it now. How would you describe the experience of having your successor stand next to you?
A: The thing I've tried to do is take care of everything and make the decisions involving the years I'm here. Anything after that, I want Jimbo to make the decision, because that's what he's going to be in charge of. That's what I've tried to do and so far it's worked good.