Clemson Doesn’t Want to Give Papa Bowden a Victory for His Birthday


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Freshman James Davis could be the key to a Clemson victory in Bowden Bowl VII.
Freshman James Davis could be the key to a Clemson victory in Bowden Bowl VII.

CLEMSON --- Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden turned 76 years old Tuesday and it left his second oldest son in a bit of a dilemma – What to you get a man who has won two national championships, 11 ACC titles and 358 ball games?


“I sent him chocolate prunes and a box of Depends,” Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden joked. “He is a mild diabetic. I figured that would cover everything. It would put him in a mild shock by Saturday and if anything else happens, he is covered.”

One thing Bowden is glad about is the fact he doesn’t have to give his father a victory for his birthday present. He did that a few years back, and he doesn’t plan on giving his dad a belated present this Saturday when Tommy’s Tigers host Bobby’s Seminoles at noon in Clemson’s Death Valley. This will be the seventh installment in what has become known as the Bowden Bowl, but Tommy Bowden says the uniqueness of it has worn off and the game is really more about Clemson versus Florida State than Tommy versus Bobby.

“As far as the uniqueness of the first father and son and all that – it’s a completely different environment now,” Tommy Bowden said. “It isn’t nearly as fun as it used to be.”

The younger Bowden said the game is more about winning than anything else.

“I think he has pretty much said the same thing, it’s winning,” he said. “It comes down to winning. This just happens to be unique because someone is hurting on Sunday. How have I handled that? I have never handled losing very good whether I lost six years ago or Saturday.”

Tommy Bowden knows one day, he will be able to look at one of those pictures of him and his father before a game, and think about how special it was for him to coach against his father, but right now, he says his focus is about beating his dad’s team.

“I think that will come later maybe when he gets out of the profession or I get out of the profession,” he said. “I think there will be a little more enjoyment about the uniqueness of it. But you know, it is amazing, I think the first year it was his chance for a 300th victory. A couple of years later, we played them down there and they named the field after him. Then I played him on his birthday one time. Then last year they unveil that life-size bronze statue.


“It seems like every year there is something unique like a milestone in his coaching career. I think those will be some special moments later on when I read one of his books on him you know or the movie they make of him. But I can’t enjoy it right now because there is too much at stake. We have to win the game. They don’t have to win it, we got to win. The stakes are pretty high. Not for him, he wants to win you know, I need to win... that part is not enjoyable.”


Neither is the fact that it splits the family for one afternoon. The day after the game, someone in the family is always hurting, whether it is Tommy Bowden, his dad, his brother Jeff – the offensive coordinator at Florida State – or any other member of the family who is involved. But the person Tommy Bowden says it hurts the most is his mother – Ann Bowden.


“The longer you stay here, the more you lose, the more the stakes go up. Sunday morning someone is hurt. It is going to be her husband, it’s going to be her youngest son, Jeff, or it’s going to be her favorite son, me,” Tommy Bowden said with a smile. “There is going to be pain… either the husband or son. Probably more so the sons. There is pain for somebody nationally through, television, radio or internet.


“Somebody is hurting on Sunday which I think reflects back on her. We get paid well to hurt she doesn’t, we do.”


Even the Clemson players can tell this week is different than the others because of the way their head coach acts.


“It brings a little more excitement to the game knowing Coach Bowden and his father are competing against each other,” said bandit end Gaines Adams.


Tommy Bowden knows it will be exciting when the two meet this Saturday. For one, his Tigers need a win to become bowl eligible and two, Florida State is coming off a 20-15 loss to N.C. State. Despite that loss, the Seminoles still wrapped up the Atlantic Division title thanks to Boston College’s loss at North Carolina.


Because of that, Bowden says Florida State will be coming to Death Valley looking for some respect.


“Just hearing my father’s comments on his television show, they want some respect as far as going to the ACC title game with some momentum,” he said. “They have lost to N.C. State and Virginia so he will have them highly motivated. It doesn’t mean as much for them obviously because they are in the championship (game). But he will have them convinced that it is a very big game and he will have them play that way.”


Or it could be Bobby Bowden is ticked off about the present his son gave him for his 76th birthday.

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