December 4, 2007
TALLAHASSEE A seasoned politician, T.K. Wetherell knows how to get things done.
That's a good thing, because regardless of which hat Wetherell is wearing Florida State president or athletic director by proxy he is facing a most challenging situation.
While it has been widely reported that Wetherell and Bobby Bowden have reached a contract agreement in principle, which assures the legendary coach's return for a 33rd season with the Seminoles next year, it may take some time for the language of that contract to be ironed out.
Wetherell repeatedly has said that Bowden "has a lifetime contract" as the Seminoles' football coach. In fact, it has been repeated so often that Bowden's attorney negotiating the deal, Russ Campbell, mentioned it again when confirming the oral agreement.
"(Bowden) will be there as long as he wants to coach," Campbell said through a spokesperson at his Birmingham, Ala.-based law office.
Curiously enough, some news sources are reporting that Bowden's new deal will be a one-year contract worth $2.5 million, with an extension option.
Now comes the tough part. When will the 78-year-old decide he wants to retire? It's something he's resisted for his fear of avoiding "the next big event" death. Prior to revamping his entire staff this past season, Bowden talked about getting the Seminoles back to the top and making a run at 400 victories.
Do the math. Bowden has 373 career wins two more than Penn State's Joe Paterno for the all-time lead going into the bowl game. Even with a bowl win, Bowden would be 26 victories shy of the 400-win mark. To do that in two seasons would require the Seminoles to string together 13-1 campaigns, or back up a 14-0 season with a 12-2 mark.
Of course, Bowden also could get there by averaging just over eight wins per season for three years in other words, by maintaining the status quo. That, however, really isn't an option.
Wetherell understands that the fan base has grown tired of mediocrity. He's also aware that last season's staff purge and rehiring was an expensive proposition geared to getting the program back on track. The problem is, one of those new assistants namely offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher is a hot commodity who could jump for a head job in the right situation.
Of course, Fisher could stay in Tallahassee and perhaps become Bowden's successor. That is certainly an option a large portion of the fan base would like to see happen and many would like to see it sooner, rather than later. There is a growing sentiment within FSU's football fan base that the program really won't be able to move forward until Bowden steps aside.
So before the final ink is put to paper on Bowden's deal, Wetherell must decide whether it's wise to continue using the term "lifetime contract" with his mentor and friend.
Wetherell has a chance to formulate an exit strategy for the legendary coach, and he even could go as far as naming Fisher the coach-in-waiting. Juggling those two options will require all of his political skills.
AD SEARCH WILL TAKE TIME
Wetherell has enlisted the services of nationally renowned headhunter Chuck Neinas to help FSU fill the athletic director's vacancy.
After 13 years on the job, Dave Hart is down to his final days in Tallahassee. Much of his time has been spent assisting interim athletic director Bill Proctor through a transition period.
That in itself hasn't necessarily been smooth. While Wetherell has accepted the responsibility of handling the Bowden contract issue, Proctor is trying to fit an awful lot of work into a very small window of time. While extremely intelligent, with a working knowledge of the Seminoles' program as a member of the athletic board, Proctor, 70, is being spread awfully thin.
A member of the Florida House of Representatives and the chancellor of Flagler College in St. Augustine, Proctor has a lengthy list of responsibilities beyond running the FSU athletic department. Of course, Proctor might not have known exactly what he was getting into, since Wetherell pitched the "interim" position as a short-term job helping him out.
In reality, FSU can't expect to have a successor to Hart named and in the office until May or June, at the earliest.
In the meantime, Wetherell is paying Proctor $10,000 per month, which is quite a bit when you consider that his calendar of duties away from Florida State occupied all but six days of his first month on the job.
DOUGLAS SHAKES OFF SLOW START
FSU basketball coach Leonard Hamilton expected junior point guard Toney Douglas to hit the ground running this season as the Seminoles' floor leader. That process has been a little slower than anticipated, but it has not been in the least bit disappointing.
A year ago, in his first full season as a point guard, Douglas and the Seminoles were hitting stride together when he went down with a broken hand. The five regular-season losses that followed essentially doomed the Seminoles' NCAA Tournament hopes.
"I think he's ahead of where he was last year," Hamilton said last month.
While Douglas still struggles as a distributor at times, especially against zone defenses, he has made huge strides at the defensive end of the floor.
Douglas is the first to admit he was a "horrible" defender in high school who focused all of his attention on the offensive end. The defensive deficiencies followed him to Auburn, and then to FSU, where he appears to have finally bought into Hamilton's philosophy.
"He's determined that he is going to add (defense) as part of his game, being a guy who really pressures the ball," Hamilton said. "He's doing an outstanding job getting deflections and getting us started."
Over a three-game stretch Florida, Minnesota and Stetson Douglas came up with 16 steals, including back-to-back career highs of six against the Gophers and Hatters. That's a far cry from the 35 steals he forced in 30 games last season.
"I'm just trying to make my teammates better," Douglas said. "Whatever I have to do for us to be successful, I'm going to do."