Bowden wants FSU future in his hands

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden, who is under fire after the Seminoles started his 34th season at the school with a 2-3 record, said his age is the biggest reason he's being criticized.

"My problem is age," Bowden said during an interview with ESPN on Friday. "If I was 50, nobody would be saying a word as far as that's concerned. But at 79, he's too old. I found out when I first started, it's always this way: 'Yeah, but what have you done lately? What have you done lately?' What you used to do doesn't count, and I know it's that way. I'm ready for it. But I also know anytime something goes wrong, he's too old."

Bowden, whose 384 career victories are three behind Penn State's Joe Paterno for most wins in major college football history, said he will not decide whether to retire until after this season.

"I've always been told you can coach as long as I want to," Bowden said. "But I've got a one-year contract and after the year, I let them know if I want to come back another year. That's as far as I go."

Bowden's contract expires Jan. 4, 2010. Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has already been named Bowden's successor, and FSU would owe Fisher $5 million if he's not named head coach by January 2011.

Bowden hopes he'll be allowed to decide whether he'll coach the Seminoles in 2010.

"I feel like I will, but you don't know," Bowden said. "I don't know. I guarantee you I ain't going to worry about it one drop."

Earlier this week, Jim Smith, chairman of FSU's board of trustees, told the Tallahassee Democrat that "enough is enough" and it was time for the school to finish the transition from Bowden to Fisher.

On Monday, Smith told the St. Petersburg Times forcing Bowden out as coach was "sort of like you have to put your favorite dog down; you know it's the right thing to do but you sure feel bad about it."

FSU president T.K. Wetherell, who played wide receiver at FSU when Bowden was an assistant during the 1960s, issued a statement earlier this week saying the coaching situation will be re-evaluated after the season.

"Any coach can choose to retire at any time," Wetherell said in the statement. "However, it is the athletics director's responsibility to determine which coaches are hired and which contracts are extended."

Bowden said Friday that his relationship with Wetherell remains good.

"It is [good] with T.K.," Bowden said. "I think the rest of them would vote me out. I'd hate for the trustees to have a vote right now."

Bowden is getting help from a key supporter: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

Crist's press office released a statement Saturday from the governor, wishing Bowden luck for the Seminoles' night game against Georgia Tech.

It was highly unusual public backing from Crist, who graduated from Florida State in 1978.

Crist's statement also called Bowden one of the best coaches of all time.

"As a loyal 'Nole, I want to wish Florida State the best of luck in Tallahassee tonight," Crist said in the statement. "I wish all the best for coach Bobby Bowden -- one of the greatest coaches of all time. God bless you, Coach!"

Bowden built FSU into one of college football's modern-day dynasties, producing an unprecedented streak of 14 straight finishes in the top five of the final Associated Press top 25 poll from 1987 to 2000. The Seminoles won national championships in 1993 and '99 and 12 ACC titles since joining the league.

But after winning 10 games or more in every season from 1987 to 2000, FSU won 10 games only once in the past seven seasons.

The Seminoles are 0-2 in ACC play for the first time heading into Saturday night's game against No. 22 Georgia Tech at Doak Campbell Stadium.

"If you can't save this season, I'd have a decision to make," Bowden said. "I know that. I have to decide [if] our kids playing as hard as they can play, and are we winning enough ballgames? Then you consider what you've got coming back the next year."

Fisher, who was lured to Florida State from LSU, was named Bowden's successor during his first season with the Seminoles in 2007.

"Coach Bowden is the head coach, and I'm the offensive coordinator," Fisher said. "This situation has never been about me; it's about Coach Bowden and Florida State. It's between him and the administration. I'm here to be the offensive coordinator, fulfill my contract and do the best we can do to help Coach Bowden attain more wins and get back to the top."

Fisher and Bowden both said Friday that the coach-in-waiting relationship hasn't caused division among FSU's coaching staff. After Thursday's practice, Seminoles linebackers coach Chuck Amato told reporters he hasn't fought with Fisher.

"I've worked all my life to get people to think that I've got integrity, I've got class, I've got character, and I'm a professional," Amato said. "And I don't know how -- I have no idea how -- somebody said that me and Coach Fisher were in a fight. We haven't even had words."

Fisher said his relationship with Amato -- one of Bowden's longtime assistants and a former NC State coach -- was fine.

"We've never had a cross word," Fisher said. "We're working our tails off. We're doing everything we can possibly do to get those extra couple of plays and straighten them out. We've got good chemistry."

Bowden also said his coaching staff was getting along well, despite the Seminoles' struggles on the field.

"You hear people say, 'Well, it won't work. It won't work,'" Bowden said. "Well, it seems to be working out at Texas. I wonder why it's working out there. Because they're winning. People think you've got Chuck Amato, who was a head football coach. You've got Jimbo Fisher, who's a younger coach. You've got Mickey Andrews, who's been here for 26 years. There's no way they can get along.

"That's what the public's thinking: There's no way they can get along. In fact, they must be fighting. Surely, they're fighting and now the kids are fighting. None at all. If you hear that, it is a rumor."

Bowden insists the criticism won't affect him as he prepares for the rest of what might be his final season on the FSU sideline.

"I didn't expect it, but I've been through this a long time," Bowden said. "It's not like the first time I've ever been through that. If you're 40 years old, when your future is ahead of you, it's like, 'Oh, my goodness, what am I going to do?' When you're 79, what have I got to lose?"

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.