Commentary: A Little More Info Please

by - Correspondent -

Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

CLEMSON -- Tommy Bowden's final press conference for the 2004 football season was different.

Yeah, the same ol' media folks were there. All the talkin' heads with the print and broadcast media, plus Clemson Sports Information Director Tim Bourret.

But the guy who headlines the weekly event seemed different than he had in the previous 12 meetings. He was a little on edge. He was shorter on his answers than normal.

For the most part, Bowden appeared to be uncomfortable.

I guess if he was, he had good reason to be. For the first time in his head-coaching career he had to fire three of his assistants ­ offensive coordinator Mike O'Cain, defensive coordinator John Lovett and rover/whips linebacker coach Thielen Smith. Also, he was facing a media room for the first time since his team was banned from post-season play after the Nov. 20 brawl with rival South Carolina.

Those reasons alone would make any coach nervous, especially a coach who has left the media and fans more than a week to speculate about the moves.

"After the season I try to do a very thorough evaluation of the program, the staff, recruiting, weights, academics on down through. It's a comprehensive study of the program. The decisions were based on a year long analysis," he said.

But did you, Coach, make the decisions?

We know for a fact the bowl ban wasn't Bowden's decision, though he did admit in a statement last week he accepted and supported the school's decision not to play in a bowl game. But what about the coaching changes?

Did Bowden make these decisions on his own? Or was he pushed?

He gave the media no clear answer on Monday, citing several times he told us all he was going to tell us was in the press release handed out minutes before the press conference began.

"I appreciate the years of service these three men have given to me and our program," Bowden said in the release. "All three were important reasons we defeated three top 10 teams the last two years. They all represented Clemson University and our program well. But philosophically, I have decided to go in another direction."


What do you mean?

You didn't see eye-to-eye with your coordinators? You didn't like the play calling? What?

"Do you want me to be more specific then my press release? Is that what your saying? Then there's no reason for me to have a press release then would there. I'm going to leave it as it is," he said.

But Coach, we need to know more?

We, the fans included, understand the firing of O'Cain. The offense struggled. At times it looked more like a junior varsity high school squad at its first practice than a unit, which was supposed to be one of the most explosive in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

But why Lovett? Why Smith?

The defense was awesome down the stretch. It was the main reason why your football team was able to close the year with five wins in its final six games.

If you're going by numbers ­ and Coach Bowden, you did complement the defense again at Monday's press conference ­ there was no reason to let Lovett and anyone on the defense side of the ball go.

After giving up 421 yards and 31 points a game in the first five games, the Tiger defense surrendered just 12.2 points and 248.5 yards a game over the last six. Teams couldn't run the football consistently on the Tigers as your team held its opposition to 62 rushing yards a game over the second half of the season.

Clemson led the ACC in sacks, and the defense forced 13 turnovers in the final six games.

So why Lovett?

I know, philosophically you decided to go in another direction.

But Coach Bowden what was the point of this press conference. We left the press conference more confused and dazed about some of your decisions than we did before we came in.

Was the firing of Lovett more personal than professional?

"(Clemson) is a small town. If it had been rather significant y'all would know about it," said Bowden.

One thing was certain Monday. Coach Bowden knows what he wants in those filling the vacancies he left open.

He wants coaches who can recruit. He wants coaches who can coach on the field. And, most importantly, he wants coaches who can control their players both on and off the field.

I'm sure Coach Bowden had his reasons for letting O'Cain, Lovett and Smith go. And I'm sure they're valid reasons too.

I just wish he would tell us. Or at least give us a hint.

But philosophically, he can't go there.

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

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