SAN FRANCISCO – Bobby Bowden loved the visit to Alcatraz. For the good of college football, let’s hope the ghost of Frank Lee Morris inhabited his body.

Morris masterminded the only successful escape from Alcatraz, though the sharks or frigid water might have gotten him before he made it to shore.

Clint Eastwood played Morris in the movie. We’re not sure if Dirty Harry would make a good Bowden. We do know it’s time the all-time winningest coach started acting like it.

That won’t require two years of planning, stolen raincoats or fabricated dummy heads. (And we will resist the cheap Jeff Bowden reference here). The main thing Bowden needs is capable help.

Morris had bank-robbing brothers John and Clarence Anglin. If he’d had Bowden’s assistants, Morris would still be stuck in Cell Block B.

Of all the things that reduced FSU to Emerald Bowl status, the offensive staff was the biggest flaw. That blame ultimately falls back on the head coach, and Bowden let the incompetence fester. What evolved was a self-constructed prison.

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Bowden still seems to be in denial about his staff’s shortcomings. It became so obvious to everyone else, notably school officials and boosters, that Bowden had to do something.

Jeff has a new job, getting $107,000 a year from boosters to do anything except call plays at FSU. Longtime assistant Billy Sexton is retiring. Mark McHale and Daryl Dickey might be on their way out.

Individually, they may have superior coaching qualities. Collectively, they oversaw the decline of one of college football’s great dynasties.

Oh sure, the run of 11-win seasons wasn’t going to last forever. But there’s no way FSU should have turned into an off week for Wake Forest.

Again, the blame ultimately goes to Bowden. But he relies on competent, vigorous assistants more than your average coach. Of course, your average coach now spends 27 hours a day dissecting tape, text-messaging recruits or worrying that some coach somewhere might be outworking him.

Bowden still does enough of that stuff. You don’t win 365 games on personality alone. But Bowden was a delegator long before he qualified for Social Security.

His strength was finding great people to delegate to, then overseeing the final product. He kept his staff largely intact for much of the late 1980s and 1990s. His current staff has also remained intact, mainly because schools like Georgia or North Carolina State weren’t exactly sending feelers.

Bowden doesn’t realize it now, but he should thank all the fans who’ve been screaming for blood. His players might have mutinied if they’d showed up at spring practice and nothing had changed.

That has made this an odd bowl excursion, even by San Francisco standards. It’s been pleasant enough, especially since Bowden avoided weighing in on same-sex marriages or same-gene coaching staffs. But whatever happens Wednesday night, the Seminoles’ entire approach will be different afterward.

What approach will that be?

There are plenty of prospects for offensive coordinator. The rumor-mill favorite is LSU assistant Jimbo Fisher, though who really knows?

For all I care, Bowden could hire the Anglin brothers, assuming one of San Francisco Bay’s dangers didn’t get them in 1962. Morris and his able assistants floated away on their makeshift rafts and were never heard from again.

At 77, this is Bowden’s last best chance to escape. Here’s hoping he formulates a brilliant plan.

For all the good years he’s put in, Bowden shouldn’t go out eaten by sharks.


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.