NEW YORK (AP) – Bobby Bowden took some shots in his 31st season at Florida State.

His Seminoles went 6-6. His son, Jeff, resigned as Florida State’s offensive coordinator after six years of being a lightning rod for criticism.

The 77-year-old Bowden called it his most “trying season.” Don’t think for a second it’ll be his last.

“I could step out so easily,” he said Tuesday, hours before he was to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. “Go retire and have a good time. I don’t want to do that. It’s like a fighter. A fighter always thinks he’s got one more good fight.

“As a coach, I still want to win a national championship.”

Bowden and 13 players, including Emmitt Smith and Bruce Smith and Heisman Trophy winners Charlie Ward of Florida State and Mike Rozier of Nebraska, were elected to the Hall of Fame in May, along with Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

Paterno was also to be inducted Tuesday night at the National Football Foundation awards banquet in New York, but he’s still recovering from leg surgery. His formal induction was delayed until next year. Paterno broke his leg and injured his knee when two players crashed into him on the sideline during a game against Wisconsin on Nov. 4.

Paterno cracked that he didn’t want his wheelchair to get in the way at the ceremony.

“He’s afraid it’ll bump my walker,” Bowden replied.

“I’d right rather have him be here,” Bowden added. “I feel like it’s kind of been a Bobby and Joe show and without him it feels like something is missing.”

Emmitt Smith played at Florida from 1987-89 before becoming the NFL’s career rushing leader. Bruce Smith played at Virginia Tech from 1981-84 and went on to become the NFL’s career leader in sacks.

The other players inducted into the Hall of Fame were Colorado running back Bobby Anderson, Miami defensive back Bennie Blades, Minnesota defensive lineman Carl Eller, Washington defensive lineman Steve Emtman, Baylor safety Thomas Everett, Air Force defensive lineman Chad Hennings, Tennessee offensive lineman Chip Kell, Purdue quarterback Mike Phipps and Stanford linebacker Jeff Siemon.

They’ll be enshrined at the Hall in South Bend, Ind., next summer.

Bowden and Paterno, the winningest coaches in major college football, were also this year’s winners of the NFF’s Gold Medal. Previous recipients include seven U.S. presidents, Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson and actor John Wayne.

Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger, the former Miami coach who along with Bowden helped turn Miami-Florida State into one of college football’s premier rivalries, said no teams were tougher to prepare for than Bowden’s.

“His teams have always been the same. They’ve been top-notch from a preparation standpoint. Top-notch conditioning-wise. They’ve always been enthusiastic and aggressive,” Schnellenberger said. “We’re fortunate we have a 50-50 percentage against him. Three out of five at Miami and 0-1 at Louisville.”

Florida State fell on hard times this season. The ‘Noles were the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion and picked to reach the ACC title game again. But the Seminoles were hit by injuries, forced to play numerous freshman, and never found consistency on offense. Florida State tries to avoid its first losing season since 1976, Bowden’s first in Tallahassee, in the Emerald Bowl against UCLA on Dec. 27.

Since Jeff Bowden began running his father’s offense six seasons ago, the Seminoles haven’t been their old explosive selves. Jeff had taken much of the blame for the problems. Finally, last month, he stepped down.

“It was strictly his move,” Bobby said. “I would never have forced him out. Blood’s thicker than water. I’d get myself out first.”

Bowden said all the pressure and criticism that went with having his son on staff was worth it.

“I had Tommy Bowden who coached. I never got to coach with him. I had Terry Bowden who coached. I never got to coach with him,” the father said. “My last son I got to coach six years. That overcomes all of the other stuff. Some justified, some not justified.”

Bowden’s won 365 games and two national titles in 41 years at Howard College (now Samford), West Virginia and FSU – and he’s fine with the Bowl Championship Series.

“Right now you got a 1 vs. 2,” Bowden said. “Now you got three that’s upset. So next year we’re going to have a four-team playoff? Now five’s mad. OK, we’ll have us an eight-man playoff. Now nine’s mad.”

“I don’t think it’s anything you can solve,” he added. “All my life it’s been by vote, and I can live the rest of my life the same way.”

AP-ES-12-05-06 1745EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.