The purpose of this press conference today is to announce that Jeff Bowden has resigned his position as assistant football coach and offensive coordinator effective at the end of the current football season. Jeff initiated this conversation with me over the last couple of days or so, and there was a mutual understanding and agreement that this decision was in the best interest of all concerned and that a public announcement should be expedited for the sake of all concerned. Jeff will be reassigned outside the department of athletics and will finish his existing contract term, which runs through August. So after the season ends, that will be the first thing that takes place in terms of that reassignment. Jeff is here and I would like Rob (Wilson) to invite him to take the podium.
Well the sentence about getting right to the point has already been done. I'm disappointed, but there were some things I wanted to say. First of all, I wanted to thank the university, I want to thank Coach Bowden and I want to thank these players that I've been fortunate enough to coach. Because we've got great kids here, great athletes, great young talent and they're going to have a great future. My biggest regret is that I won't be here the next time Coach Bowden gets to hold up the crystal ball. That's my regret. Just a couple little things, if you don't mind. Twenty-five-plus years ago, Coach Bowden taught myself and taught an awful lot of players about never quitting right out there on that practice field. Twenty-five-plus years ago, he taught myself and a whole lot of players that have come through here about giving it all you've got. And I feel like I've done that. Twenty-five-plus years ago, he taught myself and a lot of players that have come through here to do what is right. And that's the reason I'm here, because I believe in my heart that, for Bobby Bowden, this is a decision I need to make and for myself and my family, maybe the most important, this is a decision I need to make for my family. I want to thank y'all. Florida State has the greatest fans in the country. I could not be happier with the future that this team has. I could not be happier that I had this opportunity, but it's just time for me to move on now. I just hope the next guy that comes in can close this deal for this program. Thank you.
Let me say that everyone associated with the football program at Florida State expresses their sincere appreciation to Jeff for his dedication to Florida State, first and foremost, and we wish him nothing but the best as he decides at the end of the season to move forward. I also want to say to you that Rob has a statement within this press release from Bobby and he prefers – and we will honor that – that it be his only statement, and I would ask you to respect that. The same is true for Jeff. Jeff wanted to come today and speak from the heart which I think certainly he has done and he wants to go back to preparing for Saturday and for the football game. So neither coach has any desire to make additional comments relating to this decision.
Hart's Q&A session with the media:
Q: How do you go about naming a successor for the position?
Dave Hart: Well that is yet to come. I think certainly those conversations will take place in the coming days and weeks. I am sure Bobby has people already in mind. Again, that will unfold in due time.
Q: Is their possibly a short list that exists right now of candidates for that position?
Dave Hart: We have not had - it would be inappropriate at this juncture to even had that conversation and we have not had that conversation.
Q: When were you first aware that this was going to occur?
Dave Hart: A couple days ago. In terms of occur a couple days ago is when the conversation began and again Jeff initiated his desire to come and visit with me. So we have had the opportunity to visit at length.
Q: He initiated it?
Dave Hart: That is correct.
Q: Was that Sunday or Monday?
Dave Hart: We got together on Monday.
Q: Is there a formal agreement between the University and Jeff?
Dave Hart: There is a formal agreement in process and just as soon as that is executed in a formal manner that will be available to any and all of you who want to see that agreement through the normal processes.
Q: How much did Jeff indicate to you that the anger from the fanbase had to do with this decision?
Dave Hart: I would not, and I hope you can understand this, I would not go into the specifics of what was a professional, candid, and private conversation. Nor do I think would have offered what he had to say if he thought I was going to share that in a public forum. I don't think it is appropriate to go into the details of our conversation.
Q: How difficult has this situation been with father and son being privy to that and knowing Bobby's nature of being staunch in defense of his son?
Dave Hart: Well I think when you read Bobby's statement it is very clear that this is a tough day for Bobby. He articulates that I think very well in that statement that he made as part of our release.
Q: Can you explain what the agreement between Jeff and the University means at this juncture?
Dave Hart: What it means at this juncture is that he will be reassigned outside of the Department of Athletics. This element is very common within the university system because all contracts in this instance run from early August to early August and so during that time Jeff will be reassigned totally outside the Department of Athletics and that is still in process. We are still discussing what that specific assignment will be at this time.
Q: What was the team's reaction to this news?
Dave Hart: I don't know. I was not privy to that. I did not attend that and I am not even certain with the kids in class that that isn't taking place as we speak.
Q: With his resignation, did that agreement get taken care of today or yesterday?
Dave Hart: We have agreed in principle today and now again we are just bringing that to a formal statement.
Q: Do you anticipate any other vacancies on the coaching staff?
Dave Hart: Again that would be something that would be determined by Coach Bowden at the appropriate time and that is not a conversation for today.
Q: You said Jeff would coach out the season, would that include a bowl game if the team was to make it?
Dave Hart: He will definitely coach through the Florida game. Beyond that, again that is more conversations that will have to be held to see how he and how Bobby feel about anything beyond that. He will certainly coach through the Florida game.
Q: With only two regular season games remaining, why the decision to make this announcement now?
Dave Hart: Once the conversations were held, as I said earlier, it made perfect sense to me to go ahead and expedite the process to bring it to culmination. The innuendo and speculation, to have that continue and to go into the next two week that wasn't going to be fair with anyone involved in my judgment and Jeff concurred.
Q: Is this the first time you have had these conversations with Jeff?
Dave Hart: Jeff and I have had on-going conversations which again are not to be shared publicly but that is no atypical with any coach or coaching staff. I value and appreciate the respect and confidence by which coaches confide in me so that is where those conversations stay.
Q: Did these conversations over the past couple days include Bobby Bowden?
Dave Hart: No, they did not. They did not include Coach Bowden. At least the three of us were never in simultaneous conversation. Obviously I have talked to Bobby but no, it was just Jeff and myself.
Q: Going forward from this experience, what are your feelings concerning the athletic department and the nepotism laws?
Dave Hart: Well I think that is more of a university issue. It is a very fair question. It certainly creates a lot of problems, issues, and potential pitfalls. I think it exists throughout universities across the country academically and athletically and that is easily verified but it doesn't mean that it doesn't bring a lot of problems to the table. Really when you access the nepotism question, it really occurs the day that a family member is hired. A lot of people think this occurred when Jeff was promoted to offensive coordinator. That is really not accurate, it occurred the day Jeff came to work with his father as the head football coach. That would be true of a biology professor whose daughter works there or a husband and wife in the English department. It occurred the day of the hire. Certainly this, I would be less than candid, to say that this scrutiny would make it less than difficult to go down path at Florida State University. That would be my personal view of it but I think the president would share that view.
Q: Do you believe this resignation would have happened without the shutout loss to Wake Forest?
Dave Hart: I can't speak to that. I don't know the answer to that question. I think it is probably speculative in many regards.
Q: Some of the more rabid fans may think their criticisms, protests, comments, and ranting and raving may have played into this situation and forced your hand?
Dave Hart: I would tell you from an on-going dialogue that that is probably not the case at all.
Q: Jeff will be assigned outside of the Department of Athletics until this coming August?
Dave Hart: That is correct.
Q: After that will he not be affiliated with the University anymore?
Dave Hart: We have talked beyond August and once we have a formal agreement that will be available upon request.
Q: When do you expect that?
Dave Hart: Well, we just have to get the proper signatures and make certain that it is in it's final form. It shouldn't be to long.
Q: Concerning the nepotism issue, would it be fair to say that the rules were skirted in order to make the hire?
Dave Hart: I think that is inaccurate because at that point and time again Jeff was already on staff and that was a promotion of somebody who was already on staff. Believe me, there was a lot of examination and conversation related to that. There were a lot of precedents, even on our campus, where those types of situations existed.
Q: You are not suggesting that makes it right though?
Dave Hart: No, I am just answering that question.
Q: So that could be considered an urban myth that developed over time?
Dave Hart: Yes, I think so.
Q: Is the timing of this announcement beneficial in the sense that we are approaching the end of the season and the timing of staff movements, recruiting, and other such issues?
Dave Hart: Very much so, I think that was part of our conversation that I can share. The timing was driven by those very real factors. Jeff wanted to give his father and his staff and recruiting the best opportunity to unfold in a positive manner. So to his credit, that was a part of the timing.
Q: If the team qualifies for a bowl will Jeff coach in that?
Dave Hart: That is undetermined at this time. That is something that will be between Jeff and Bobby. I won't engage myself in that unless they want me to for some reason. I think they just want to go about the task of getting ready for Western Michigan on Saturday and move forward from there and make that decision when it is called for.
Q: When did you and Bobby discuss this?
Dave Hart: We have discussed it again over the course of the last couple of days.
Q: Did he resist Jeff's decision?
Dave Hart: Again, I wouldn't go into sharing and I will say what I said earlier, those conversations needed to be and were held in a respectful, private venue. I wouldn't divulge the specifics of those conversations and it wouldn't be fair to him.
Q: What is your take on the state of the program right now?
Dave Hart: I think certainly right now we have the obvious, we have tradition, a great base of fans, we have a lot of young talent in our program, and I think those in the profession would concur with that immediately. We are in a place right now that has been a tough road but others before us have been down that road and still reached their ultimate destination. That is how you have to view it. Bobby will assess at the end of the season the strengths and weaknesses and we always have that conversation. We will have that at the appropriate time and he will have some very certain things in mind, I am certain of that and then we go from there. We will try to get back on the path that we have grown all to accustom to and that is one that exceeds most people's wildest dreams in terms of a ratio of success.
Q: You confidence remains in Coach Bowden?
Dave Hart: Absolutely.
Q: Coach Bobby Bowden's contract status though is a bit cloudy?
Dave Hart: It really is not cloudy at all.
Q: Well, can you explain it further then?
Dave Hart: I would just say this so that we don't cross over the purpose of this press conference is really not that. That really is not an issue in terms of longevity for Bobby Bowden. It has been articulated very clearly by the President of our University on down that that is not an issue. We have handled that the same way at least since I have got here and that has been 12 years. We have handled that in identical fashion whenever that contract has come to the expiration date. That has never been an issue.
Q: In a best case scenario, do you anticipate that a relief will result from this and this will maybe put out some flames that have been fanned for a while?
Dave Hart: Well, from what I referenced earlier about the speculation and the innuendo and I think from Jeff's personal perspective and I think he articulated that. I think that is true in that instance certainly that it has been tough and this will enable to move forward.
Q: Bowden has said over the past few years that he doesn't sacrifice one guy to appease fans or admit that one guy is the root of problems, are you concerned this may result in such a perceived admission?
Dave Hart: That doesn't concern me at all. I don't have any fears in that regard.
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