ATHENS - Now that he's retired, Bobby Bowden said he has become "a laptop operator." So when he came to Athens on Friday morning, he knew about the swirling issue of drug suspensions at the Georgia football program.
Bowden, now 82 and still feisty, did not hold back in defending Georgia and his former offensive coordinator, Mark Richt, now the head coach dealing with the issue.
"There's no university immune to this," said Bowden, who was in town to speak at Richt's coaching clinic for high school coaches. "If you think your university is clean, you better hang loose. Because it's our society today."
Reporters didn't have to tread delicately into the drug issue. Bowden brought it up himself, and said Richt and the Bulldogs got the negative attention because they're more restrictive than other programs. This came when Bowden was reminded of a comment he made when Richt was hired that Richt may be "too nice."
"He's not. He got that (nice) side and he's got the other side," Bowden said. "I think Georgia gets so many, you hear of boys getting out of line, because they're so doggone restrictive. His program is a lot more restrictive. I know a lot of schools - I don't want to say something I shouldn't say - but drug testing, you don't have to drug test. If you don't want your boys to be caught with drugs, don't drug test them. And some schools do that. But if you have a strict drug-testing program, the way our society is, you're gonna have kids (test positive.)"
Bowden was then asked if the policy was more restrictive than he had it at Florida State. Yes it was, according to Bowden.
"I would say we were above average," he said. "But I think Georgia's even above that, from what I've heard."
And is that necessary today? Should there be drug testing at all?
Again, Bowden said yes.
"Our society needs it. You need something to try to deter these boys and deter these girls from getting into drugs," he said. "I mean it's all throughout our whole society. Why are football players any worse than anyone else? Everybody else is doing the same dad-gum thing. So if you have something that deters them, yes, we all oughta do it. But there will be some that will fall through the cracks."
There should also be a universal policy in the NCAA, Bowden agreed. That would be the most "fair" thing, he said. But in the absence of that, Georgia should still drug test even if it's competitors are not.
"Georgia needs to do what's best for Georgia," Bowden said. "And yet you've got to soothe your conscience, that you're not letting bad things happen just because somebody's gonna find out. I think you gotta do what you've gotta do.
"But there is an advantage if you're a school that doesn't test. ... A school that doesn't test, you're not gonna lose kids because of that."
Bowden also pointed to what in his mind is the larger problem: The lack of father figures for athletes. He said he had too many players at Florida State who didn't have fathers.
"A boy needs a male," Bowden said, pounding the table. "They've all got these sweet mamas, and these sweet grandmamas, and these sweet big sisters. And they need a man pounding on them. I've had kids come to Florida State and never been told no."
Bowden was accompanied by Dave Van Halanger, who was the strength and conditioning coordinator at Florida State under Bowden, then came to Georgia with Richt. Van Halanger now serves in a player development role at Georgia.
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