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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Answering the big Florida questions

Tim Tebow should not play this week, and Bobby Bowden should stay (for now).

October 08, 2009|CHRIS DUFRESNE

It feels like the humid old days, when FBS stood for Florida Bowl Series and Saturday in America tilted like a teeter-totter toward Tallahassee.

From 1987 through 2001, three of Florida's finest ear-holed institutions combined to win seven national titles.

And here we are this week, talking about Florida's keys from east to west.

Florida is No. 1, Miami is No. 11 after a momentous win over Oklahoma and the state's Big Three are once again represented in the top 25: Florida, Miami and . . . South Florida.

Oops . . . OK, it's different.

Opinions this week are like ears -- everybody, including me, has two.

The questions: Should Florida quarterback Tim Tebow play and should Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden stay?

The answers: No and a fudged "yes."

Top-ranked Florida plays at No. 4 Louisiana State as the world awaits word as to whether Tebow will return two weeks after suffering a concussion against Kentucky.

It seems all the doctors who weren't in Washington this week discussing the public option were in Gainesville discussing the Tebow option.

Gators Coach Urban Meyer said the Tuesday meeting decision to allow Tebow to return to practice involved a dozen people.

No expense is ever spared in Gainesville. If the situation called for four experts, the school would double it to eight.

"I guess you expect that here at Florida," Meyer said.

All signs point to Tebow returning to his old cognitive self, although a final decision probably will be withheld until game time in Baton Rouge.

"We're game planning as if there's a chance Tim will play and there's a chance he won't play," Meyer said on Wednesday's SEC coaches' conference call. "And that's pretty much going to be a response until the foot hits the ball down there."

Meyer said this is not a gamesmanship ploy to keep LSU guessing, but let's hope it really is.

Tebow should not play.

Let's make this clear: Meyer would never put a player he loves like a son at risk. And it's also clear that Florida's medical team, for the sake of anything, would never allow Tebow to play if he had not passed every test they could dream up.

Still, Tebow should not play.

Take the assessment that Tebow is 100% healed and then add a week.

What about the big game at LSU?

In matters of brain matter, it's irrelevant. And, even if it were relevant, it's a game Florida can afford to lose. The Gators recovered from a home loss to Mississippi last season to win the national title and they could recover this season from a loss in Baton Rouge without the nation's best player.

You think if Florida won the rest of its games and finished 12-1 it would not be in the BCS title game?

OK, moving on to whether Bobby Bowden should hit the road.

It appears, after 34 mostly sensational seasons, that this might actually be the last act for Florida State's legend.

The shame is some pinheaded Florida State trustee had to go public with his thoughts -- that Bowden should announce now that he will retire in December? -- instead of keeping quiet and letting nature take its course.

The one thing Bowden deserves after all he's done and won is a dignified exit. Bowden, of course, is partly to blame for not walking away before allowing his program to reach this state of flux.

But he has earned the right to screw it up too.

Florida State is 2-3 for the first time since 1976, his first and only losing season in Tallahassee, yet he refuses to concede a yard.

"This dad-gum team is so close to being 5-0," Bowden said on a Wednesday conference call. "We're not, but it ain't like we're getting crushed."

Oh yeah? It's a good thing Bowden doesn't visit chat rooms.

If the Seminoles can't recover and finish underwater, Bowden probably should hand over the program to Jimbo Fisher a year sooner than he wanted.

But the final news conference to announce Bowden is finished should be called by Bowden, even if it was forced.

The way it unfolded this week was borderline disgraceful, with Ann Bowden, Bobby's wife, having to go on the public offensive to defend her husband.

So too, in Tallahassee, it comes to this.

"It happens everywhere, not just FSU, but the Dallas Cowboys, it happens everywhere in the coaching profession," South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier, who poked his share of fun at Florida State when he was coaching at Florida, said Wednesday. "If you're not doing very well, the people in charge want to make changes."

Thankfully, Florida State President T.K. Wetherell, who played football for Bowden, issued a statement Wednesday that should kick this canning down the road.

"FSU does not make coaching changes in the middle of the season," Wetherell said. "What message would that send to anyone -- friend or foe -- to do that at this time?"

Bowden said Wednesday that nothing's changed -- he will make a decision at season's end.

"If I was 40 years old, I'd be shaking in my boots," Bowden said of the criticism. "But I'm 79, you know, I've been through it, and most of my coaching is behind me."

How much of his coaching is left?

In coming weeks, as Florida State flourishes or flounders, Seminoles fans should consider what football was before Bowden arrived.

Unlike USC, or Ohio State, or Notre Dame, tradition at Florida State does not transcend the acting coach.

Bobby Bowden created Florida State football -- he is the tradition.

What happens after Bowden is gone, well, disenchanted Seminoles fans may soon discover.

What's that saying, careful what you wish for?

--

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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