Bowden: Not time for return

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- On his last day at the helm of Florida State's football team, Bobby Bowden stopped into Jimbo Fisher's office and said goodbye.

"I said, 'Hey Jimbo, you're not going to be seeing me anymore,' " Bowden recalled. "'I'm going to be gone, so don't be offended.'"

In the three years since, Bowden hasn't set foot inside Doak Campbell Stadium -- and the longtime FSU coach said that won't change this weekend, despite his induction into the school's hall of fame.

Bowden will attend Friday's induction ceremony, which will also feature former quarterback Danny Kanell and Bowden's longtime secretary Sue Hall, but when the honorees are recognized at Saturday's season opener against Murray State, Bowden will be absent.

"Yes, (the fans) would like me to come back and wave at them," Bowden said. "I'll do that one of these days, but there's no hurry in my opinion because now, I want all of their attention to go to Jimbo Fisher."

Bowden said he has continued to distance himself from Florida State not because of hard feelings following his forced exit after the 2009 season, but because he doesn't want to overshadow the current team or create an opportunity to second-guess Fisher.

Eventually, Bowden said, he plans to return for a game, but with so much attention on his hall of fame induction and the high expectations for the team, this wasn't the right time.

"(Fisher) has invited me back. He's begged me to come back up there," Bowden said. "And one of these days, I will. But he needs to form his own authority before I jump back up in there."

This might be the season Fisher is able to do that, Bowden said.

Florida State enters 2012 ranked No. 7 in the country, and the Seminoles are the odds-on pick to win the ACC. The enthusiasm is deserved, Bowden said.

"I think they're the strongest they've been in the last 13 years," Bowden said. "In '99 we won the national championship, and in 2000, we played in it and lost it. Since then, this is probably the strongest team that Florida State has had. Now they've just got to go out and do it."

And Bowden will be watching, he said -- just not from the stands.

Even the hall of fame honor is one Bowden accepted reluctantly.

The university has offered the honor in each of the past three years, and Bowden said he hasn't wanted to step back into the limelight. But rather than continue eschewing the offer, he decided to enjoy the moment this year with Kanell and Hall, both of whom played important roles in his career at Florida State.

"I really felt like the longer we waited, it would be more meaningful," Bowden said. "But the last three years, they insisted I go ahead and get in, so this year I am."

In the three years since Fisher took over, Bowden said he has returned to campus just once -- to make a speech to the local Quarterback Club.

In the meantime, Bowden has remained active in college football, and last month he became the official record holder as the all-time winningest coach in FBS history when former Penn State coach Joe Paterno was stripped of more than a decade's worth of victories in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.

But while Bowden has happily taken up the cause of promoting the sport of college football in retirement, he's been careful to give Fisher and the current crop of Seminoles their time in the spotlight, too.

Eventually, there will be a time for a homecoming, but Bowden will wait until it feels right.

"I'll be bopping up in there again one of these days, but not right now," he said. "It's going to be nice when I do it, but I'm in no hurry."