As I walked across the Doak Campell parking lot and glanced over at the Bobby Bowden statue, I thought about all the admiration and gratitude that has been paid to Coach Bowden. For years, Bowden has been regarded by the denizens of Tallahassee as some sort of Greek god. But now, as the Florida State Seminoles are 2-3, Jim Smith, Chair of FSU’s Board of Trustees is proclaiming that this has to be Bowden’s final season. As Smith, put it, “We have been patient long enough.” Smith is essentially arguing that the Noles have been dwelling in mediocrity the last several seasons and it is time to get back on top with a new head coach.
In response, I find Smith’s idea to be absolutely ludicrous, if not grotesque when one thinks about the purported ideals of college athletics. Yes, I know, many will say that big time college athletics is a “business” and in business, decisions have to be made in relationship to what is best for turning a profit. However, if one examines the mission statement of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and more locally the mission statement of Florida State’s athletic department, one will find reference to building character, education, and academic achievement. There is nothing in these mission statements pertaining to college athletics as big business or the need to win national championships. But unfortunately, we see once again in college athletics that mission statements are nothing but a façade to cover up the reality which is winning = fans = money = winning = fans = money. So when the statue was made of “Coach,” the Board of Trustees should have told Bowden that all the admiration and accolades would be there only as long as he could sustain the formula. Forget all that silly nonsense about character development and education. The mission statement obviously needs to be reworded into something that represents the truth. Something to effect of “The purpose of big time college athletics is to make lots of money and win national championships…” It should also be mentioned somewhere in fine print that even if you have the second most number of wins in Division I football history, a statue made of you, a field named after you, and the development of a town because of you, you will still be terminated if you do not feed the insatiable appetites of the fans and boosters.
In closing, I am stultified over the kinds of things that can mean so much to people. On the one hand, the world’s environment is withering away, the ozone layer is gone, there are millions of sick and starving people suffering around the world, our U.S. economy has been in turmoil, thousands die of cancer, and other incurable diseases every day. Yet, on the other hand, Smith and many others are lying awake at night over a 2-3 football season. Which by the way, could easily be a 4-1 record if just few a few plays were across the last few games. At that point, FSU is easily in the top 25 and we are not even having this conversation.
Dr. Rudd is with the program area of Sport Administration in the College of Education, Florida State University