FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — Florida State coach Bobby Bowden isn’t ready to give back those wins the NCAA wants to remove from his record due to an academic cheating scandal.

The 79-year-old Seminoles Bowden said Tuesday he still hopes the NCAA-vacated wins will be restored after a university appeal, keeping his race with Penn State’s Joe Paterno going.

Paterno’s 383 wins is currently one more than Bowden.

“Of course, I’m hoping to win that appeal. I’ve been coaching 55 years and I never have been involved in cheating,” said Bowden, seated next to his three coaching sons at the University of North Alabama. “Here I’ve done nothing and I’m going to lose 14 ball games. It doesn’t seem right, but it could happen. And I won’t cut my wrists if that doesn’t happen. There are more important things in life.

“But I do hope that they rethink that like they did with Oklahoma and Georgia Tech (in recent years), where they first said they were going to take away wins and they changed their minds.”

The NCAA said 61 Seminole athletes cheated on an online test in a music history course from the fall of 2006 through summer 2007 or received improper help from staffers who provided them with answers to the exam and typed papers for them.

The university has appealed, arguing that stripping the school, its coaches and athletes of victories in several sports is too harsh.

Bowden spoke about the prospect of losing the wins during “A Day With the Bowdens” Tuesday at North Alabama, where son Terry is approaching his first season as football coach. Terry, Tommy and UNA associate head coach Jeff Bowden hosted a prayer breakfast and seminars with teenagers and adults.

The NCAA vacating 14 Bowden wins is not the way Paterno wants the chase for the winningest coach status to end.

“The NCAA is going to do what it’s going to do, but I would hope they would not take away 10 or 12 wins away from him,” Paterno told the Reading Eagle in Pennsylvania. “I don’t think that’s fair. He coached the team he had; they played against people, and they won. They ought to be wins for them.”

Asked about the comments, Bowden said: “That doesn’t surprise me. I would say the same thing if it was facing him. I hope that doesn’t happen because there will always be an asterisk out there.

“He’s in the lead right now,” he added. “Of course if you vacate those 14 wins, that thing is over.”

Tommy Bowden, who is out of coaching after his midseason resignation at Clemson, said his father doesn’t discuss the wins record at family functions, but only when the media brings it up.

Terry badly wants those family bragging rights.

“I think it’s important to everybody that played for Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno,” said Terry, who hasn’t coached since his abrupt departure from Auburn six games into the 1998 season. “I want to bounce my grandkids on my knee and talk about Bobby Bowden and not Joe Paterno as the winningest coach ever. I think it has value to a lot of people in a lot of ways.”

Bobby Bowden is approaching his 34th season with the Seminoles, with offensive coordinator and head coach-in- Jimbo Fisher designated as successor.

With birthday No. 80 approaching in August, he isn’t letting himself be pinned down on a retirement date.

“I’m not going to coach until I’m 85,” he said. “I’m just not going to do that. It’s a year to year thing. People ask me, ‘How long do you want to coach?’ I hope I don’t ever have to say it because people start counting the days.

“My days are numbered. I know about when it’s going to be, but I won’t say it.”

He and Paterno spent time together during a Nike-sponsored trip to Puerto Rico in the spring with other coaches. The win thing doesn’t come up, Bowden said.

“Joe and I kind of hang around a little bit, but you know we never discuss that,” he said. “We’re both aware of it. The thing about it, there ain’t nobody with us. It’s just me and him. The next guy is going to take 25 years to catch us. One of us is going to be it and I can’t think of a better guy than Joe, unless it’s me.”

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