"Fired might be a little too strong," the former Florida State coach said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "Pushed out ain't bad. I was pushed out, no doubt about it. I didn't want but one more year. Gosh, I'm 80."
Bowden retired at least technically after Florida State went 7-6 last season, the third time in the last five seasons the Seminoles barely broke .500.
The coach doesn't act bitter, but he wants to make sure the record is straight.
"I didn't want them to spread the story that I voluntarily, happily resigned," said Bowden, who was in New York to begin a promotional tour for his new book, "Called to Coach."
The affable Alabama native rolled up 389 victories (though 12 were vacated by the NCAA), second behind Joe Paterno in major college football in a 44-year head coaching career. In 34 seasons at Florida State, Bowden won two national titles and engineered one of the most successful runs in the history of college football.
But Florida State went 38-28 in his last five seasons and the board of trustees and then-university president T.K. Wetherell thought after last season it was time for a change.
Bowden said Wetherell presented him with two alternatives.
"Number one, you can stay as ambassador coach. I don't think I've ever heard of an ambassador coach in my life. I said, 'Well, what is an ambassador coach?'
"He said, 'Well, you can remain the head coach but you can't coach out on the field.' Now how can I be the head coach of this team if I can't go out on the field? So I said, 'Well that's out.'
"So I said, 'What's the next alternative?' The next alternative, we ain't going to renew your contract," Bowden said with a big laugh. "Does that sound like I resigned?"
When Bowden was an assistant coach at Florida State in the 1960s, he coached Wetherell and got to know his family.
"He and I were pretty close," Bowden said. "I thought I was safe."
Bowden said his relationship with Wetherell has likely been irreparably damaged.
"I doubt if I'll have a relationship with T.K. anymore," he said.
Wetherell acknowledged that ultimately it was his decision to remove Bowden and let Jimbo Fisher, who had already been designated Bowden's successor, take over in 2010.
"Of course I made the decision, who else could have?" Wetherell told the AP.
Wetherell added it was one of the most difficult things he had to do in his seven years as Florida State president. He stepped down after last school year.
While Bowden was not allowed to end his career on his own terms, he insists he doesn't miss coaching.
Sure, he'd like to see the players and his assistants. But not having to worry about wins and losses, players' grades or receiving those late night phone calls about a one of his kids getting in trouble, he said he's happier without that.
Bowden has been keeping busy, traveling mostly around the South and speaking to churches about his Christian faith. His speaking engagements have also taken him to Brazil and Billings, Mont., for the first time.
He also took a vacation with his wife, Ann, to Israel.
In Tallahassee, Fla., however, he's keeping a low-profile. He's spending much of his time at a house he owns in Panama City, Fla.
"I love Florida State," he said. "I'll be pulling for them. I'll be pulling for Jimbo. I didn't want to sit there and be looking over his shoulder.
"People have to make the transition from me to him."