Commentary: Not Out Of Character For Bowden To Shake Up Staff


by - Correspondent -
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All the talk this week about the possible departure of Clemson tight ends coach Jack Hines brought to mind a recent conversation I had with head coach Tommy Bowden.

During a guest spot on my show back in late November or early December, Bowden and I were discussing yet another strong finish for his team. The conversation turned to how well new coordinators Rob Spence and Vic Koening had settled into their positions, as well as how the players had - following the usual growing pains - responded to the new systems and seemed to be thriving in them.

Remember, Spence and Koening - along with defensive line coach Marion Hobby - joined the Clemson staff after Bowden fired Mike O'Cain, John Lovett and Thielen Smith. That was one year after Bowden shook up his staff with position changes following the thrilling finish in 2003.

So, with things rolling well at the end of 2005, I remarked to Bowden on the air that it appeared the coming offseason possibly could be the most stable with his coaching staff in the last couple of years.

Bowden's one word answer was "Possibly," followed by nearly two seconds of silence. Then he laughed, realizing he had caught me off guard.

But the implication, even then, was clear. Nothing was set in stone, and he very well could make further changes if he thought his program would benefit from one or more moves.

Whether Bowden was focused on Hines, then or now, remains unclear.

What is perfectly clear is that Bowden has shaken up his staff before, for better or worse. There's no reason to think he wouldn't do it again.

***

It's not Clemson related per se, but Markus Vick's dismissal from Virginia Tech could be felt all over college football.

Vick's behavior in the Gator Bowl, as well as the revelation this week of yet another arrest back in Dec., left Hokie brass little choice but to kick the talented but troubled quarterback off the team.

And while Frank Beamer, Jim Weaver and company should get some credit for pulling the trigger, let's not go overboard in our praise of the head coach and athletic director. Remember, there was a very good argument to be made for Vick not being allowed to play for Virginia Tech at all based on his previous legal troubles.

But, to their credit, the Tech administration finally reached a breaking point. Although it should have, perhaps, come sooner, let's hope that maybe the dismissal of a star player from a high-profile program has a ripple effect throughout college athletics.

More and more you see college athletes - not just football players - in the news for all the wrong reasons. Television reports it, columnists wring their hands over it, but usually that's about it.

The incredible amounts of money being thrown around college athletics these days can cause some strange behavior. Athletic directors will fire a coach when the program dips because the school can't afford to lose revenue from ticket sales, booster donations, etc.

Coaches, feeling that kind of pressure, seem to be willing to give players third and fourth chances at becoming good citizens. Why? Because star players equal victories, which equals job security.

So maybe Vick's dismissal will have a positive ripple effect throughout college athletics.

Maybe the message will get through that character does matter. Maybe coaches, athletic directors and school presidents will begin to take tougher stands.

Maybe.

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