Coaching Bowden's calling
Published: Wednesday, January 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2002 at 11:57 p.m.
NEW ORLEANS - Florida State's Bobby Bowden has tried to keep Georgia on his mind this week, but a lot of other folks just haven't let him.
With his team's New Year's date in the Sugar Bowl against the fourth-ranked Bulldogs at hand, Bowden has spent most of his time answering criticism that he's gone soft after a half century of coaching.
Bowden, whose 332 career wins ranks second in Division I-A to Penn State's Joe Paterno, has been caught in a firestorm after suspending two players and kicking off another - two being his team's top quarterbacks.
"I think I can help kids," the always accessible, usually affable Bowden said. "That means more to me than anything else."
The 73-year-old coach believes teaching values, including religion, are important in today 's society.
"You've got some that don't need a harder shoulder," he said. "Some of them have been abused all their life. Each one is different. There's no perfect way to do it."
And his players believe in him.
"It amazes me people would say coach Bowden should retire," said guard Montrae Holland, a fifth-year senior who came from Texas to play for the Seminoles. "He's proven what he can do."
Florida State athletic director David Hart Jr. believes Bowden is firmly in control of the football program and feels badly the veteran coach has been embarrassed by a rash of player misconduct.
"He's extraordinarily resilient, but yes, he does want to get it corrected," Hart said.
However, Hart says the school must "tighten its grip," on athletes who fail to meet the school's standards.
"As a head coach he understands that ... the poor judgment, poor decision making ... has to stop," Hart said. "Bobby is a big picture guy."
Bowden says the challenge is bigger than ever.
"With this kid getting in trouble and that kid getting in trouble, does that mean you want to get out?" he asked rhetorically. "NO. It makes me want to work harder to help these darned kids. that's what drives me."
"Once you get out of it, they don't come to you anymore," he said.
Florida State (9-4) goes into tonight's game against Georgia (12-1) with several new faces in its starting lineup: Fabian Walker making his first start at quarterback, a pair of true freshmen with him in the backfield behind him center David Castillo, making his third start.
Walker, who has played sparingly, takes over for Chris Rix, suspended for failing to take a final exam - a violation of university policy.
The defense will be without its two most experienced tackles. Senior Jeff Womble is sidelined with an injury, while Darnell Dockett, was suspended for an incident at a shopping mall that is being investigated by Tallahassee police.
There's also an investigation into gambling rumors surrounding former quarterback Adrian McPherson, who was kicked off the team in November in a stolen-check scandal.
"A kid breaks a rule, you discipline him," said Bowden, who believes all the controversy could help the Seminoles against favored Georgia.
"It'll be interesting what we can do," he said. "I think we need everything we've got for this one."
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