Bobby Bowden: Clemson Program Headed in Right Direction


by - Correspondent -
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HOT SPRINGS, Va. — When Bobby Bowden accepted the job to coach the Florida State Seminoles in 1976, he planned to stay in Tallahassee just four years. Well, those plans obviously changed.


Bowden began his 30th season Monday with Florida State, entertaining the masses of media who gathered around his table at The Homestead, in the mountains of Virginia, to kickoff the 2005 football season.

“I planned to be here just four years,” said Bowden. “When I took the job, I thought I would be gone by 1981. That year, we had to play at Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Notre Dame, (at Pittsburgh) and at LSU in five straight weeks.


“ After seeing that schedule, I wanted to be out of there by the time that year rolled around,” he joked.

But Bowden was still there, and his ‘Noles struggled to a 6-5 regular season despite going 4-1 in those five games. That season, however, is the year Bowden pointed to as the year the Seminoles came on the scene. Not his 10-2 team in 1977 and not the 11-1 team that finished No. 6 in the national polls in 1980.

“(1981) was the year that got it started,” he said. “That was the year that started it all.”

Now, 24 years later, Bowden can’t help but notice the same similarities in Tommy’s 2004 Clemson team. Like his father’s sixth Florida State team, Tommy Bowden watched his sixth team struggle with a difficult road schedule, which included losses at Texas A&M, at Florida State and at Virginia, before bouncing back with victories in five of its last six games.

“I can sleep better tonight knowing that,” said Tommy after learning his father’s sixth team went 6-5. “That’s a good thing to know.”

In the first eight years of their careers, Bobby and Tommy’s careers mirror one another as well. Bobby, in stints at Sanford and West Virginia, tallied a 60-22 record during his first eight years as a Division I coach. Tommy in two years at Tulane, and six years at Clemson, has posted a 62-33 mark.

“Tommy has really grown as a head coach,” said Bobby. “I can tell how he has changed and matured as a coach.

“He has experienced some things that have made him a better coach, just like I had to, just like Terry at Auburn, and now I see it with Jeff. You have to have thick skin to make it in this business. If you can’t handle it, then you need to get out. Tommy, he is as tough as nails. You’re going to find it hard to find anyone tougher.”


Tommy said he has his dad to thank for his toughness. In years past, he has called and asked his dad for advice on how to handle the media, troubles with players, and of course play calling.

“I don’t know what would make him say that because I don’t know what he is thinking in his head,” said Tommy. “I guess you’ll have to go back to him and ask him some more about it.

“But I owe a lot of what I learned from him. He is thick skinned too. I make it a point not to read the papers, listen to the radio, or watch television once the season starts and I got that advice from him.”

Bobby says Tommy has the ship headed in the right direction at Clemson, and with the Westzone project currently underway, he knows he will have all the right tools in place to make Clemson a consistent contender in the race for the ACC Championship.

“Tommy is doing a fine job and I hope he wins every game, except the one when he is playing us.”


Will Vandervort is the Sports Editor for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.

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