Commentary: Clemson Fortunate TDP Is Hanging Around

by - Correspondent -

Clemson - that's the school and the fans - received two pieces of good news in the past 24 hours, both involving athletic director Terry Don Phillips.

One was a threat most everyone suspected. The other would have been a total blindside.

On the school's website Thursday, Phillips issued a statement in which he declared he was not a candidate for the AD's job at Arkansas. His announcement puts to end rampant speculation that he would bolt for Fayetteville and take over for his retired mentor, Frank Broyles.

Then in Friday's Charleston Post and Courier, Larry Williams reported that Phillips also rebuffed efforts by the Big 12 Conference to gauge his interest in the league's commissionership. Again, Phillips said thanks but no thanks. The talks never got beyond the exploratory stage.

From this vantage point, Clemson got lucky. Twice.

Phillips isn't overly demonstrative. He isn't flashy. What he is, though, is quietly effective.

Since taking over for Bobby Robinson, Phillips has guided Clemson through a number of storms. Some public, some not. In fact, the first storm reared its ugly head the day he walked through the doors to begin work.

When Phillips arrived at Clemson he found an athletic department in much worse financial shape than he had been led to believe during the interview process. He also knew that he had facilities in desperate need of upgrading.

Somehow he was able to pull it all together. He streamlined the West End Zone project, shaving cost without shaving effectiveness. He oversaw the completion of the Littlejohn Coliseum and Doug Kingsmore Stadium upgrades.

Along the way, he brought in Oliver Purnell to turn around the men's basketball program. He found a way, financially speaking, to appease baseball coach Jack Leggett and ensure that Clemson, not Oklahoma, would continue to be his home.

He extended Tommy Bowden's contract - without a raise, mind you - after a 2003 season that saw fans clamoring for the coach's return (regardless of what they may be saying now. That's what 63-17 can help get you).

The men's golf team has won a national championship.

Is there work still to be done, more challenges to face? Absolutely.

Bowden is back under the microscope again this season and, despite record season ticket sales and IPTAY giving, deservedly so. Phillips has seen the talent level of the football program increase, but not the production. He could be facing a tough decision on Bowden's future again at the end of this season.

The men's basketball team still hasn't made the NCAA Tournament. The women's basketball team is struggling to find its way under third-year coach Christy McKinney, while the man whose job she took - Jim Davis - has officially retired from the athletic department.

There are or have been brewing problems within both track teams and the rowing team.

Further renovations - phase two of the West Zone, expansion of Doug Kingsmore Stadium - are sorely needed but under-funded.

And let's not even get into the whole AARC mess again.

Still, the good outweighs the bad since Phillips took over, and many of the problems he currently faces are evident at campuses all across the country. Yet somehow, one gets the idea that with TDP in control, there's no need to panic.

Sure, he may double talk at times like the lawyer he is. He seems more comfortable watching games from the radio booth than his own box. He certainly doesn't do things to intentionally get his name in the news, something that seemed to be a characteristic of the aforementioned Broyles.

But Phillips, in his own quiet way considers every alternative and - more often than not - makes the right decision.

For Clemson, deciding to stay put is one of them.

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