FSU coach Bobby Bowden spoke with the media on Sunday. Here is a transcript of that conversation:
Q: With the program never playing in northern California before, are you looking forward to this trip?
A: That's the one good thing about getting this bowl bid. There is no telling how many of my players have never been there. You're probably talking 95 percent, maybe all of them. I don't know if any of them have been there. That will be good to our players, instead of going 250 miles of 300 miles down the road. Now that's not bad either. Jacksonville's not bad. But in the circumstances we're in, I really think it's good.
The last time I played out there was 1975. My last year at West Virginia. We played California out there in Berkley and beat them. We went out there several years before that and played Stanford.
Q: Whatever you end up doing with your coaching staff in the off-season, is there some kind of deadline in your own mind? Do you say, 'I'd really like to have my staff settled by such-and-such a date."
A: I really have not set a date. You'd like to say sooner than later, definitely. The sooner it can happen. My main concern is going after the right person, because if you go after the wrong person then you are going to suffer on down through the years. So my main concern is getting the right person. I'd hate to set a deadline and say I've got to get him by then or I don't get him. A lot of guys are involved with their team going to a bowl.
You have to take all that into account.
Q: What kind of recruiting goes on in December?
A: A lot of it is dead period. There is a dead period between Christmas and the bowls.
Plus, this is not a big year for us to sign a lot of kids. We've got nearly everybody coming back, which doesn't give us a lot of numbers. If we don't use them this year, then we can sure use them next year. We'll still try to sign the best players we can get.
Q: You said last night that you had hoped to get a commitment from a guy before the bowl, or as quickly as possible.
A: Ain't no telling what I said last night. After a game, it doesn't count.
Q: Just trying to understand this: Is your preference to get a guy committed just to you or are you hoping to make an announcement before the bowl?
A: I'm not concerned about a dad-gum announcement. I'm not worried about an announcement. That's y'all's problem. I want a dad-gum offensive coordinator. I want the best one I can get. No matter what it takes. When it's a sure thing, I'll announce it when I can. I'm not going to pin myself down to having to work on a deadline.
Q: You also said last night you wanted to bring in an offensive coordinator with a scheme you felt comfortable with. Do you have something in mind that you'd like to do with the offense, or do you have an open mind of listening to what a new guy might bring in?
A: Let's just say that I know what I'm looking for.
Q: Can you elaborate?
A: No, I wouldn't want to do that. Y'all are trying to find out who is going to be the new coordinator. If I knew, I wouldn't want to give that information out yet.
Q: Can we rule out a guy who runs the wishbone?
A: I don't know.
Q: As you look at a new offensive coordinator, are you looking for someone who is different – in other words, outside of the Bowden circle?
A: I'm looking for whatever was missing and to find someone who can fill that, whatever it is. I can honestly say that I never came close to going through a year like this. Not wins and losses. I can never remember going through a year like this. You get blown out one time. You blow out three teams. The other eight games came down to the last minute. We won three of them and lost the rest of them. But they all could have been won in the last minute. We've lost games here before where we didn't have a chance. Look at Florida last year and they had us out of there by the third quarter. You can look at other losses. But this year, every dad-gum one of them. If we could have won another minute, we could have had a heck of a year. We got blown out by Wake Forest.
You've got most of these guys coming back next year. Can't you improve a minute's worth? Yeah, I think we can improve a minute's worth. That's what you are looking for in next year.
Q: How much do you put that on a developed offensive line?
A: I don't like to put it on anybody. I don't like to say we lost because of this or because of that. Again, it's a case of we all lose ball games.
Q: Do you think if the offensive line had more depth it would have helped?
A: I think if you have more depth everywhere it would be good. I'm not going to point fingers at the offensive line.
Q: Because the running game has been lacking, --
A: It's obvious we don't block good enough.
Q: You don't snap the ball good enough either.
A: What in the world happened there? How many did we have last night? It cost us the Boston College game. We had third-and-3 on their 5-yard line and got a roll-back. The quarterback can't look downfield when he's trying to pick up the darn ball. You look up and everybody is in your face. We got a bunch of them last night. I don't know what caused that. But it hurt.
Q: That game looked like your whole season wrapped up in one, didn't it?
A: Yeah. We really needed that win yesterday. Really needed it.
But they're good, by the way. I told Urban after the game that I believe that's the best Florida team I've seen since the '96 team. They have a ball club that – and I've said this before about us, but not lately. But sometimes you go into a season where you are set. You've got a kicker. You've got a punter. You've got a returner. You've got a defense. You've got an offense. You've got it all. I kind of felt that way going into '99. Florida has all that. They've got great pass-rushers. Great pass-rushers. That's the best thing we did yesterday -- protect the passer. They got to us some, but that's probably the best thing we did because they have been eating everybody up. Now, next year I think we'll be closer to that category if we stay healthy.
Q: Their games have come down to the last minute as well.
A: They've won 'em. They sure have.
Q: They don't have a kicker.
A: Well, that's true. They have had a rough time with that. But that's where we matched them. We didn't want them to have a disadvantage there.
Q: You know what a national championship team looks like. You've coached two of them. Does Florida belong in that conversation?
A: I think so. I think they could compete. Ohio State and Southern Cal, they might be in a class of their own. But Florida could be – it would be a good game with any of them.
Q: Drew [Weatherford] said last night he was looking forward to a little time off and not thinking about football. What is your schedule like these next few weeks?
A: We'll be off this week. We'll meet with them tomorrow and give them their schedule. I'm not exactly sure what it is. We've got to look at finals. We'll probably be off, off and then practice and then off for the finals and then practice all the way through Christmas. We've got to go out there before Christmas, which we haven't done. We usually go to the bowl the day after Christmas. The game will be on the 27th. So their free time is going to come after that.
Q: What do you hope to get out of these bowl preparations?
A: Same thing we've always gotten out of it. We'll practice the same amount of days. Well, let me say this: We'll practice the same amount of practices.
We've had the same schedule that we've used for 20-something years. We'll do the same thing. Now we might have to adjust it. We might go two-a-days in a few of those days just to make up some time.
Q: You said in your search for an offensive coordinator that you're looking for something you've been lacking.
A: I'm looking for somebody that, whatever we've been missing, will have it.
And, no, I'm not going to tell you what that is. That points fingers again.
Q: You know in your head what that is?
A: Yeah, I sure do.
Q: When you look at Florida, did you think there was a disparity in talent? They had game-changers with guys like Caldwell.
A: My biggest concern with their offense was not them taking the ball and running it down our throat. That didn't scare me. I've seen Caldwell – against Alabama, I think – catch a little slot pass for three yards and do the same thing he did against us yesterday. Went around the outside and down the sideline for a touchdown on a play that shouldn't have made four yards.
I was scared of that more than anything. Him and the freshman and then Baker. I said, 'How in the world are you going to contain those guys all day?' You can hold them so long and they will get away some. Then ours got away some, too. But he's [Meyer] sitting in pretty good shape there.
Q: It hasn't been very often that you've had this void of play-makers for whatever reason. How much do you attribute to scheme and how much do you attribute to you missing some pieces?
A: It's according to how much stock you put into blocking? None? Is it all just X's and O's? The X's and O's are the same. It's blocking. Blocking and somebody making great plays. That's what they did well yesterday – they blocked and they made great plays.
Q: One of the other things Drew said yesterday was that Greg Carr had to get the ball more than two or three times a game.
A: It would be nice if you could, but it doesn't always work that way. How about that great receiver at Georgia Tech? They didn't throw a single pass to him two games ago. It just doesn't always work that way. Who is going to let that guy run around free? Most of the time, they are going to have a guy inside and outside or one underneath and over him. That's one guy you aren't going to let get you. Sometimes, you are wasting your time throwing to him unless he can make that fantastic catch. But that's why you have to keep going to him because he might make that fantastic catch.
I remember games where we didn't get the ball to Pete. Remember that Fiesta Bowl we played with Tennessee? Pete Warrick running around out there open and we couldn't get him the ball?
Q: When you look at this recruiting class and as small as it's going to be, how important is it that you get some home-run hitters?
A: Well, you've got all your receivers back except for Davis and Hallback.
You lose Booker and you've got all your runners back. You'd always like to have another great one. A great runner or a great receiver – you wouldn't turn one down.
Q: It just doesn't look like you have many guys who can make those plays. You lose Booker and you lose Davis, so who is that guy next year?
A: Antone Smith is not bad. He just moved up to first team and it lasted two plays. It looked like he could have contributed. But you need others. You always need others.
Q: From a numbers standpoint as you talk about recruiting, where do you think you need to fill holes?
A: This is one of those years where you'd like to get the best players you can get no matter what position they play. But I know we still need help on the offensive line.
Q: You always said it was easier to climb than it was to maintain, even though you made it look so easy to maintain for so many years.
A: We did maintain, that's the amazing thing. It's like this year – so close, so darn close, and yet we didn't do it. You are talking about Florida being a top-three football team and deserving to play for a national championship. How close are you to them? Uh, well the game came down to the last minute. Are we that far off? Are we that far off from those teams that beat us? But we lost, and there is no way I can justify that because we lost. But we're probably saying, 'Coach, get one more great this and you can do it. Or get one more great this and you can do it.' Now whether that is a linebacker or whether that is a defensive tackle or whether that is a runner or whether that is a receiver – you are probably that darn close.
Q: Does it bother you that you have maintained for all those years and then you go through a rough season like this and people are coming after you?
A: People are going to do that. All I do is fall into the category of 50 percent of the coaches who lost yesterday. I got to join that bracket this year. I don't like it. Again, can we next year take this football team – which we don't have to bring in another freshman because we've got everyone back – and can we take this football team and make it a minute better? Now if we can, those one-minute losses become one-minute wins and now you are back. We need some help from the injury thing. We need help there. You never know how we would have been if we hadn't lost the guys we lost, but that is football. That is football and everyone else loses people too. But could you have blocked one more punt if you hadn't lost Marcus Ball? Could you have returned a punt for a touchdown if you hadn't lost so-and-so? Could you have stopped a kickoff return if, instead of playing those walk-ons, you were playing these two guys who are getting their knees operated on? There are so many dad-gum variables like that involved in this dog-gone thing. Next year, maybe it can change.
Q: You've always said the one thing that would drive you out is losing.
A: You're exactly right. I'm sure glad I never lose because then I'd have to quit. Yeah, I know I made that statement. The question I'd ask y'all – and think this thing through all the way: If you were me, where I am right now, would you quit?
Q: Because of everything you have coming back?
A: I ain't going to tell you. You have to figure that one out.
Q: That might be dangerous. We know your salary.
A: I know. That's not fair.
The thing is, you sign these players and I would hate to tell them that I'm leaving. I'd almost rather have them fire me than leave. How can I look these kids in the eye if I'm leaving?
Now, one thing that would get me out is if my players didn't want me. If my players didn't want me, I wouldn't stay.
But, I have no desire to get out right now.
Q: With what you've said about Bear Bryant in the past, do you have that fear that if you stop doing something you've done your whole life and you've got your routine …?
A: Nah. The easiest thing in the world for me to do would be to retire. That would be so easy. Then all this pressure would just leave. I'd go to Panama City and walk up and down the beach a few times and look for another job.
How many times can you walk up and down the beach before you look for another job?
Q: You also said last week that one thing you needed to have a great team is a competitive spirit and a great quarterback. Your quarterback play has been up in the air the last few years.
A: Again, I really do think it's getting ready to be there. You're playing a senior quarterback last night against Florida. We're playing those redshirt sophomores. Our's will be a redshirt junior next year and his backup will be a redshirt junior. We've got two freshmen who I think are going to be pretty dog-gone good. Our successful years, we always had a redshirt junior quarterback. I really think these guys are going to have their stuff.
Q: Are you more determined to come back after a 6-6 season to fix it than you would be if you were 11-1. You seem more determined to come back.
A: If the university hinted that they didn't want me back, I'd listen to them. But, I don't know, I'm like those old fighters. You still think you've got another win in you. You still think Florida State can win a national championship. I know they can. But can I do it? Can I bring 'em back? I think so, and I'm going to find out.
Q: Out of curiousity, when did the 'want to coach as long as I can' kind of creep into your mind? Steve Spurrier used to look at you and say he wasn't going to coach that long, but now he's saying that he likes it where he is and he'll stick around a little while longer. Now that puts him in a category of being 70 when he's coaching. When did you get to that point?
A: When you are recruiting, if kids think you are going to leave then your opponents are going to eat you alive. You notice Joe keeps signing five-year contracts. I sign five-year contracts. When I do, I am honest. My hopes and desires are that I can fulfill it.
Q: You've got the Hall of Fame ceremony coming up. Any thoughts now on what that ceremony will be like.
A: It will be nice. I'll appreciate it.
Q: Is it special because you are going in with Charlie?
A: Yes, that's special. Charlie got us our first national championship. He's such a hero here. It's a pleasure going in with him.
Q: Have you talked to Larry Coker at all?
A: I wrote him a note when he lost the player. We've kind of communicated through other people. 'Tell Larry I said so-and-so' and Larry would come back and say 'tell Bobby I said so-and-so.' But we haven't talked on the phone.
Q: How tough has this year been on you personally?
A: It's been very tough. Tough on me and my wife both. Losses are just tough. I'm sure you've got coaches all over the country who feel the same way who have been through the same thing. The losses are the toughest part of it to me.
Q: The situation with Jeff, do you feel like you need to make a statement about that or express your feelings on what that meant to you personally?
A: Well, number one, I hate to see him get out of it. I'm sure he will get back into coaching. I hated that it turned out that way. It's kind of like when you hired him that he didn't have a chance. Right off the bat, the nepotism thing jumped up there. Lose a couple of ball games and everything reverts back to that.
Q: A couple of weeks ago, you said it might end up being a relief. Now that you're past that, do you still feel that way?
A: That part is a relief. Then you play another ball game and lose it. You get to feeling sorry for yourself again. But that's part of it.