Bobby Bowden keeps himself busy these days. He stills gives passionate speeches and inspires many, but nowadays, he does it from behind a podium, rather than in a locker room. He says he's so busy he has to fly on private planes instead of commercial because it's the only way he can make all of his speaking engagements.
Tuesday, Bowden was the keynote speaker at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Steve Davis Champions Luncheon Series in Tulsa. Bowden said he became involved with the organization in 1963, drawn to the group by the convictions and principles that so closely aligned with his own.
"Those are exactly what I believe and it (FCA's goal) is that these athletes, both girls and boys, are to become role models for my children, your children, your family," Bowden said. "All these young boys and girls growing up now watching television, watching what some of these guys say on television; they need role models and that's what the FCA tries to do."
44 years as a head coach at various levels of football gives Bowden plenty of authority to speak on the issues currently facing college football, which has changed dramatically in just the four years since he left the sidelines in Tallahassee. Regional rivalries have been ignored in favor of lucrative television contracts in other conferences. Realignment has changed the face of college football, and the pay-for-play debate has reached a roar with the Northwestern football unionization push.
"It would undermine it," Bowden said of the affect unionization would have on college athletics. "Those kids are not employees of the university. If it did happen, I think it would throw our university and college systems every which directions. Trying to figure out who controls what and what all you could do, how far can you go with it. I don't want to see something like that happen."
Bowden said the NCAA "can always stand an overhaul," just not a drastic one. He thinks unionization is not the right way to go about forcing necessary change to happen, even if it does get athletes some of what they're ultimately looking for.
"Usually, when you do something, you want to make it better," Bowden said. "I can't see anything better coming out of it if they make it like that."
Ultimately, Bowden said the NCAA needs to make better judgments. Bowden's career coaching record is an example of that. The NCAA vacated 12 wins from the 2006 and 2007 seasons for FSU playing with ineligible players.
"I had about 25 boys in a class of about 500 where someone was calling out the answers and those kids didn't need them," Bowden said. "But they overheard it and it counted against them. They suspended 25 guys for a bowl game."
Bowden isn't wishy-washy about his stance on paying college athletes; he says they deserve it, at least, those bringing in the main chunk of cash for the school's athletic department.
"They should be paid, but they're not," Bowden said. "We can talk about that all we want to. When I was in college, we got paid. We got room, board, book, tuition, fees and $15 a month laundry money. They just gave us a check for $15 a month. You'd say $15 isn't that much, but oh back then it was. That'd be about $150 today and if they were getting paid, I'd say give them about $150. Don't give them enough to play poker every Saturday night; give them 150 bucks.
"Do they deserve it? Yes, you're dadgum right. They've earned every penny of it. Now, if you do it for them, it's going to cost you a lot of money, but you also have to do it for girls' basketball and girls' soccer and boys' soccer and the swimming team and every team. You've got 25-30 other teams."
Bowden said he didn't think the smaller sports were deserving of pay, but acknowledged the legal ramifications of paying just the football and men's basketball players would be deterrent enough to not pay anyone. And that's not to mention where schools would actually find the money to pay all the athletes.
"That's why I think most of them can't have it," Bowden said. "Maybe the Alabamas or the Oklahomas or Oklahoma States, maybe they can handle it. I betcha Tulsa don't make that much money and it'd be questionable if Florida State could. It's like a lot of things. The top 15 teams in the country, they can do a lot of things all the rest of them can't do. They rest of them are in red."
Bowden said he doesn't miss coaching but was very happy to see Florida State climb back on top of the college football landscape this season. He was quick to point out the Seminoles never had a losing season during their regression in the 2000s, but chuckled when he added 7-6 doesn't cut it in Tallahassee.
In October, Bowden returned to Florida State for a game for the first time since he left after the 2009 season. He said it was nice to be back, but doesn't really enjoy going to games these days.
"I'd a lot rather stay home to watch the game than go to the game," Bowden said. "I just can't watch it. I went to the national championship game, went out for the coin toss and then went back to my room to watch the game. If I sit in the stands, I see people I know all the time, signing autographs, they want you to meet their grandma. You just can't watch the game."
Bowden's platform may have changed, but he's still doing the same thing: trying to shape the lives and hearts of men and women through sports. He's been doing it his entire life and he doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.