Commentary: Bowden, Phillips Focus On Future Of Program

by - Correspondent -

A pair of impromptu press gatherings took place at Clemson Monday afternoon.

Head football coach Tommy Bowden and his boss, athletic director Terry Don Phillips, met separately with the media at the school's athletic offices, meetings announced on the fly via phone calls from sports information director Tim Bourret barely an hour before they were to take place.

Both men, it seemed, had one thing on their collective minds:

Get the 2006 football season as quickly into the past as possible, and start focusing on 2007.

Phillips opened his dialogue with an apology. He had ignored repeated phone calls and interview requests for the past week, he said, to allow "the waters to settle and to collect my thoughts" after Clemson's 28-20 Music City Bowl loss to Kentucky. The defeat made it four losses in five games to close out 2006.

The Clemson AD then proceeded to again throw his public support behind Bowden and the football program, pointing out that despite the slow finish the team "was in a position to challenge for a league championship" for the second straight season.

Many of the programs that have reached the top, he said, have hung around a rung or two down the ladder for a few years before finally making it.

Phillips added that he had already met with Bowden once, and will meet with him again following national signing day next month. But, Phillips said, he has every confidence Bowden and his staff will get the problems ironed out and find a way to propel this program to the next level.

"Tommy works extremely hard," said Phillips. "You'd have to get here awfully early in the morning to beat him in, and you'd have to stay very late at night to outlast him."

Bowden, for his part, identified three areas "off the top of my head" which need immediate attention:

Red Zone efficiency, kickoff coverage and pass defense.

"As the head coach it starts with me. I have to look at the problems and say,'Okay, how are you going to fix them?'," he said. "Last year it was the punt protection. We had five kicks blocked. So I have to look in the mirror and say 'How can I get this fixed?'

"So those are three areas - one offense, one defense and one special teams - I know we'll be focusing on."

Bowden said there will be more specific conclusions drawn when the total evaluation of the program is done as it is each year following signing day. The next four weeks, he said, are spent exclusively recruiting.

After that, Bowden said, he'll go through the season with his staff - play by play, game by game - and try to find out what went wrong down the stretch this season.

If they can't, and the team struggles again in 2007, Bowden joked that "Things could be very interesting around here this time next year."

Told of Bowden's comment, Phillips wouldn't address it. He also wouldn't speculate on whether or not Bowden's contract would be extended after next season.

The coach has four years remaining on his current deal.

Phillips did acknowledge, however, that part of his job as athletic director is balancing the overall state of the program with the monetary issues the school is facing. He was happy to report that funding for Phase Two of the West End Zone project is moving along at a good pace, and he believed the construction timetable would allow everything to be in place by the 2008 season.

He also denied rumors that big money donors had approached him with funds they wanted to contribute toward buying out Bowden's contract.

"And if they did, I wouldn't take it," Phillips said.

But Phillips also let it be known, for the first time, that the school has a contingency fund in place to see the athletic department through any unforseen hard times. That fund includes enough money to buy out the contract of any coach on Clemson's campus.

Including Bowden's.

So what do we make of Monday's events?

Well, without it being said specifically, both Bowden and Phillips seemed to be of common understanding about the importance of 2007.

With Bowden having to rebuild his offensive line, find a new quarterback and keep two high-maintenance, high-profile running backs happy (the coach denied rumors that either James Davis or C.J. Spiller had come to him since the bowl game asking out of his scholarship for purposes of transferring, by the way), finding a way to "challenge for a league championship" again may be Bowden's most difficult task yet.

Trouble is, it could also be the year his margin of error is at its slimmest since 2003.

In an era when a major college football coach's life expectancy seems to be growing shorter by the day, Bowden will be entering his ninth season at Clemson in 2007. And after eight seasons, the last four of which have been peppered with "close but not quite" comments, neither he nor Phillips provided much of an answer to the obvious question:

When is getting close no longer enough?

However, tap dances aside, one gets the feeling that both men know the answer.

As Bowden said, this time next year could be very, very interesting.

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Subject (Replies: 47) Author
Commentary: Bowden, Phillips Focus On Future Of Program
oh wow***
I feel better after reading this.***
puts to rest a lot, and then brings up more new questions***
Sucks for Bowden that he enters a make or break season
Well, at least he gets another chance....but he did make
Whose fault is that?***
no kidding, no one to blame but himself***
Augusta Tiger
himself and parity***
I can point out 20 programs that aren't affected by "parity"***
he can point finger at himself...he recruits and develops***
Graphic Tiger®
Re: Sucks for Bowden that he enters a make or break season
same ol', same ol'***
Sounds like TDP isn't a fan of CTB's jokes...***
"Put up or shut up" time has finally arrived...thank God.***
Will you be thanking God if we put up?***
We all will be....***
Of course...but after 8 years, it does seem like a prayer.***
Don't you mean 15+ years?***
No...TB has been given much more than West
In fairness, one could say that TB is just a better salesman
Re: "Put up or shut up" time has finally arrived...thank God.***
Re: Maybe we will see a consistent effort similar to the end
Okie Tiger®
True, just wish he didn't NEED pressure to win...would like
Re: True, just wish he didn't NEED pressure to win...would like
Re: Commentary: Bowden, Phillips Focus On Future Of Program
Tiger Contractor
You notice we will be address several issues during the
So the bottom line is
Re: So the bottom line is
Tiger Contractor
Better than 8-5?***
Re: Better than 8-5?***
Re: So the bottom line is
Tommy West vs. Tommy Bowden
Nice post - agree 100%***
Re: Tommy West vs. Tommy Bowden
Big Tuna
Great post!!!!!
You threw a lot of examples of TW losses, and
Re: True enough, but TB is only 37-27 in ACC and
Two things are a little strange here
NO need to raise
what a dumb freakin comment
Maybe the reason for the seperate press conferences is...
I agree. Hopefully, we won't get a penalty for 10 men on
Dan also wanted to give Shyatt more time.***
Re: clemson SOL for 2007
Re: Commentary: Bowden, Phillips Focus On Future Of Program

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