College Football: Bowden's Florida State Pipeline Good for North Alabama?

David LutherFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2011

Ever since the University of North Alabama named former Auburn head coach Terry Bowden—son of Florida State icon Bobby Bowden—as the head coach for the Lions' football program, there have been questions about his connection to his father's program.

Indeed, from the beginning, it seemed as if the players residing on the lower half of the Seminoles' depth chart (and a few names higher up) were being funneled to the younger Bowden's Division II program by his dad.

In his first season as head coach at UNA, Terry Bowden welcomed more than a small handful of Florida State transfers—there were seven before the 2009 season even began, and all of them were instant starters for the Lions.

As Bowden's tenure at UNA continued, so did the flow of talent from Florida State. Players such as Marcus Sims and Preston Parker have ended up in Florence, Ala. via Tallahassee, Fla.

While Bowden guided the Lions to a 11-2 record in his first season, including a Gulf South Conference title and berth in the Division II playoffs before bowing out in the Regional final, UNA's second year under Bowden saw a step backwards, finishing 9-4, tied for fourth in the conference and exiting the playoffs in the second round.

Marcus Sims, one of several former Seminoles that has suited up for the UNA Lions.
Marcus Sims, one of several former Seminoles that has suited up for the UNA Lions.

As the start of Bowden's third season approaches in Florence, there are even more players being added to the UNA roster from Florida State. In fact, when the 2011 season begins, four of the five offensive linemen will have played at Florida State previously.

While there are many who believe that this influx of FBS talent to UNA could help the Lions in their quest for bigger and better things in Division II, there's also the lingering prospect that the current UNA philosophy will hurt the program down the line.

There will come a day when the Bowden name no longer carries such weight with active players on Florida State's roster. While nearly every current Seminole has played for Bobby Bowden, their numbers are quickly dwindling, and within two years, none will remain.

It's entirely possible that the Terry Bowden connection to the Seminoles' talent pool will dry up. There's also the possibility that Terry Bowden will move on from UNA, leaving some other coach in charge that doesn't have the FBS connections Bowden enjoys. What then?

Currently, North Alabama's football program is running the risk of becoming a “transfer in” type of program. Rather than recruiting the top players available to a Division II program in the south, UNA is relying on leftover talent from FBS programs to stay competitive. UNA was 9-4 last season. What would the record have been without any FBS transfers? 8-5? 7-6?

As the next crop of high school prospects begin their search for a college football home, UNA could find itself passed over by the best D2 prospects. Who wants to play for a program where you might be starting one day and benched the next in favor of an FBS transfer that yesterday no one on campus knew?

The Lions could be passed over for schools like Delta State (Miss.) or Valdosta State (Ga.) because there's far less risk of having their starting position “stolen” by an FBS transfer.

There are plenty of quality Division II programs in the nation that accept transfers from the FBS and FCS. But rather than bring in one or two new faces, North Alabama has thrown open their doors to any and all from the FBS, and in particular, Florida State. That could begin to have a dire impact on their recruiting in Division II.