The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday - September 23, 1991 - Page 3
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The coach talks about college
football in the Deep South
Bobby Bowden's Florida State
Seminoles bring their No. 1 national
O ranking into Ann Arbor next week to
face the No. 3 Wolverines. Daily
Sports Contributor Shane Green
caught up with coach Bowden dur-
ing the summer to discuss the
matchup and Bowden's views on
Daily: How do you keep your
guys from getting caught up in all
the media's hype and keep them
focused on playing football?
# Bowden: Well, I think you live
and learn. You learn from your
experience. Maybe a fifth of these
boys were on the '88 team, and they
kind of spread the word: "We'd
better keep focused and not think
about what we did or what all
they're saying about us." Experience
is key, because we grow from our
/ - D: How do you feel about the re-
*cent move by college presidents to
assert more control over their ath-
letic programs? One recent proposal
even hopes to eliminate special ath-
letic dormitories, which would do
away with your Burt Reynolds
B: Well if you're raised in the
Deep South, everybody's got dorms.
Now other parts of the country
*never had them. So we're kind of
used to them, we like them, and we
want to keep them because we feel
like we can keep a better watch over
Now if they say we can't keep
them, it won't be any disadvantage;
we would learn to live with it. But
we bring these boys into a large
university from all over, and some
just don't have the background to be
Olet loose. It may be a little different
here in the South. It seems that up in
Michigan, it's just a little further
advanced, the kids maybe are more
ready for it. To me, they ought to
just let each school do what's best
for it. However, they are changing a
lot of things that I don't like, but
that one doesn't bother me as much.
D: What has changed in recruit-
oing the last 10 years that has made it
Wso difficult for schools not to
B: It starts, in my opinion, with
the pressure of coaching and the
pressure of winning. A coach is
given a job, he's paid a lot of money,
and then mainly the boosters and
fans say that he'd better win no
matter what. Then he becomes afraid
that he'll get fired if he doesn't. So
*the first thing you know, he starts
looking for advantages - like buy-
It starts there with pressure. But
a coach can't afford to give in to that
kind of pressure. He can't sell his
soul because of what a couple of
fans want. So then it falls com-
pletely on the integrity of the coach.
Michigan has always had a clean
program, and so have we, but you
have to be careful. You can break a
rule and not even know it. We got a
million rules out there, and it's hard
for a coach to keep up with them all.
Like this year for instance, they've
changed a rule to try to keep us from
over recruiting. If a high school se-
nior writes me a letter, I can write
him back. But if a junior writes me, I
can't write him back. So say a kid in
the tenth grade writes me a letter
and I write him back, if he becomes a
prospect, that's illegal.
There are just so many rules out
there. But we all try - well, not
all, but schools like Florida State
and Michigan - to avoid breaking
rules. We just don't want to win
D: As for the national champi-
onship, Bo Schembechler retired
without ever having won it. You've
been one game away the last four
years. How important is it to you to
get that ring?
'I'd rather go 10-2, 10-
2, 10-2, 10-2, and not
win a national
championship, than to
go 5-6, 7-4, 12-0 and
and 6-5 ... because I
just can't stand the
B: Well, I'd like to win it. We'd
like to win it. I'd like Florida State
to have a national championship. Of
course I'd sure like to have it before
I go. But it might not happen. It's
hard to get.
You have to be a little lucky to
win it. And the fact that Bo never
got one doesn't diminish my respect
for him one bit. To me, he estab-
lished his reputation not on playing
for the national championship one
year, but on year after year and
decade after decade of winning. That
was the true mark of Bo Schembech-
Now, I'vP said this before and I
sincerely believe it: the next four
years I'd rather go 10-2, 10-2, 10-2,
10-2, and not win a national champi-
onship, than to go 5-6, 7-4, 12-0 and
national champions, and 6-5. I'd
rather have the 10 wins because I
just can't stand the losses.
I can remember staying up late at
night and not being able to sleep be-
cause of a loss. But I've never lost
sleep about a national championship.
The years we came in second and
third, no problem. I know where I
came from - the other side of the.
tracks. I'm just happy to be here. I
haven't gotten spoiled yet.
D: You've. been called "King of
the Road" because of your ability to
win the big away games. With the
FSU tradition of cutting a piece of
the opponent's turf if you win and
taking it back to Tallahassee and
burying it in a cemetery, what are
you planning to do to bring home a
piece of turf from Ann Arbor?
B: Well if we're fortunate
enough to win, we would definitely
go down to some insignificant part
of the field and tear up some turf
and bring it back.
That started here somewhere
back around 1962. What happened
was Florida State was a girls
school, then it became a boys school
and everybody beat them. So it got
to be that if they ever won an away
game in which they were underdogs,
they would call it a "turf" game,
and they'd come back and bury the
turf and put a plaque on it. It was
Dean Moore who started that. Well,
what's happened now is we've got-
ten pretty good and we ain't under-
dogs anymore. But I bet we're un-
derdogs at Michigan, because it's
their home field.
D: You've played Michigan be-
fore so you know about their offen-
B: Oh, they're unbelievable. I've
studied them a little bit and I just
can't believe how big they are.
D: But Florida State's defense
relies more on speed and less on size.
Which is more important to you?
B: Well, I'd rather have big guys
playing them. There aren't as many
big people down in the South as
there are up there in the north.
Skrepenak, guys like him just don't
hardly live in the south. You have to
go up in Pennsylvania, New York,
Ohio, and Michigan to find guys like
that. We just don't have as many.
Now, we'll have more speed, but
our defensive linemen who will be
playing against those 300-pounders
are around 255 to 260 pounds. So
maybe our linemen will be faster.
But so were Mississippi's, and
Michigan just smashed 'em. They're
going to try to smother us, just
smother us. It's going to be interest-
'There aren't as many
big people down in
the South as there are
up there in the North.
...You have to go up in
York, Ohio, and
Michigan to find guys
D: Do you think that joining the
ACC will make it harder for you to
win a national championship since
it's getting so tough to survive con-
ference play undefeated?
B: No, no, uh-uh. I think the con-
ferences are as good, but no better.
But that is true about the confer-
ences. The SEC hasn't won the na-
tional championship in 11 years, it's
been since 1978 for the Pacific coast.
The independents have had the
D: So why didn't you remain as
B: Well, number one, Penn State
jumped and ran to the Big Ten. OK,
Notre Dame goes out and gets their
own TV package. They're the only
school in the country that can do
that. Now Miami starts to jump to
the Big East and we jumped to the
We were all scared about being
left out there alone. Now as long as
Notre Dame, Penn State, and Florida
State were all independents, and
could be under the same coverage of
the CFA, then we had a chance to get
good coverage and everything be-
cause we were an independent like
Notre Dame. When Notre Dame
went and signed their own package,
we lost Notre Dame. Now we're
standing out here by ourselves. So
we all ran to conferences.
Now what are the advantages of
a conference? There's more strength.
ABC might want the Big Ten to
televise, but if Penn State's not in
the Big Ten then they're not going
to be on ABC. But now they're as-
sured coverage. So we ran and there
was a chain reaction.
Now, there aren't many indepen-
dents left. We could have stayed in-
dependent if we wanted. As long as
we always had a great year, we'd
come out alright. But you can't have
a bad year. You wouldn't be on tele-
vision, you'd lose recruits, and then
you'd be in a downward spiral that
you couldn't get out of.
See, last year we were 10-2 and
couldn't get a major bowl. The
Sugar, Cotton, and Orange all had
ties to conferences. So we went to
the Blockbuster and it became a
great bowl because Penn State was
forced there just like us. Now, if we
win the ACC, we have a choice:
Cotton, Sugar, or Orange. It's the
worst we could do. That's why we
felt we needed the support of a con-
The day I tried out for
You've heard about writers joining athletic teams to get an inside
look at sports. George Plimpton did it with the Lions, and some Daily
guys did it with the Michigan wrestling team two years ago.
But yesterday, I got an even better opportunity. I got to try out for
the American Gladiators.
It wasn't just me - athletes from the Detroit area turned out in
greater numbers than from any other city thus far on the Gladiators tour.
The day started in the normal fashion; I hopped in the car and headed
for Auburn Hills. Trying to find the Palace amid an absurd suburban in-
frastructure was among the most difficult legs of the challenge. After
exiting Interstate 75, I proceeded blindly along a route of senseless road
signs like a lab rat looking for cheese.
I found the cheese when I got to meet Nitro and Gemini, the two
Gladiators on hand to sign autographs and kiss babies. Fearing a World
Wrestling Federation-type caricature, I was refreshed when the two
thespians admitted to be just that - actors.
Gemini, a former UCLA offensive lineman who bounced around the
NFL, then the USFL, then Hollywood, was candid in explaining how he
became a Gladiator.
"It was a regular audition call," he said. "They wanted actors with
good athletic ability and good camera presence."
Nitro was the more gung-ho type, warning me of the dangers of
"It's extremely physical. You can hurt yourself out there," he
warned, and just in the nick of time. I was just about to wander onto the
set of Atlasphere.
In fairness to Nitro, a former San Jose State and L.A. Rams' outside
linebacker, he did speak about his character in the third person. He intro-
duced himself as Dan Clark, and said things like, "Nitro is a tough com-
I excused myself from the dynamic duo and headed for the arena,
where the Gladiators tour roadies had set up a series of competition areas
on the cement floor with little day-glo colored pylons.
I climbed the steps of the competitors' section, eyeing the cutoff
Gold's Gym T-shirts and satin lumber company jackets inscribed with
the name "Rocco."
Sitting in the stands, I listened.
"How can some of these people honestly think they can make it?" an
apparently elitist Gladiator wanna-be inquired to his acne-ridden crony.
"Yeah, with my luck I'll get stuck with some guy who's 240," a
diminutive auditioner bemoaned about the Powerball exercise, a one-on-
one contact event. "If I do, I'm putting my head right in his groin."
"The only thing weaker than someone trying out for this thing is sit-
ting in the stands and watching other people try out," one self-effacing
individual said, showing disrespect for the eager crowd of several thou-
One spectator had a rebuttal. "Is it asinine to jump off a bridge or to
want to jump off a bridge?" she asked, expressing disapproval of the en-
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