I think most of the concern following Clemson’s stunning loss to Maryland last weekend was justifiable and understandable. What a sickening feeling that we all had leaving Death Valley last Saturday. I aimlessly walked around for an hour or so before heading back to my tailgate.
What in the world had just happened? That is about the only question I could muster out of my mouth.
The aftermath of that loss has left an uneasy feeling among Clemson Nation. Let me try and put into some type of perspective of where we are going and why.
Tommy Bowden, in year 10, needs to get to Tampa Bay with this team and play for the ACC Championship. That was a clear goal from Clemson fans, the Clemson administration, Terry Don Phillips, and from Tommy Bowden himself. If Coach Bowden cannot get this team to Tampa, I think most of us can agree that Bowden’s job status at Clemson will be in serious jeopardy come December. More on that a little later in this article.
But mathematically, Clemson has not been eliminated from going to Tampa this year. The Tiger’s loss to Maryland was a huge dent in the quest, but a loss to Maryland is not an eliminating factor in itself. While the Terrapins have the tie-breaker advantage over Clemson, I think many of us would agree that Maryland will lose several games in the ACC this year. They were thoroughly whipped by a bad Virginia team last Saturday, so don’t expect Maryland to make a major push to Tampa. And while that makes the loss to Maryland last week sting a bit more, the reality is that Maryland losing to Virginia is a good thing for Clemson.
Therefore, If Clemson loses to Wake this Thursday night, the Tigers will essentially be eliminated from representing the Atlantic Division in the race to Tampa. A loss Thursday would mean that Clemson has had two losses in the ACC (both against Atlantic Division teams) and would put the Tigers in a situation where we would have to hope Wake Forest loses three games in the conference. In essence, a loss to Wake would be the end of any hope of getting to Tampa in 2008.
On the flip side, a win in Winston Salem would inject a shot of adrenalin to a program and to the season. With a win, Clemson would move into first place in the ACC heading into the second week of October. Because a win over Wake will make every team in the Atlantic Division have a loss, the Tigers would hold our Tampa fate in our own hands.
Beating Wake Forest in Winston Salem will not be easy, but it is certainly possible. Finding a way to put a 5 or 6 games winning streak together will not be easy, but it is possible.
I think we owe it to this team to support them through all of the turmoil and drama that is the Tommy Bowden soap opera. We owe it to the players to not tuck our tails, as fans, and give up. These players signed to come to Clemson, many of them because of the fan support that has made our program legendary. These players are caught in the flux and after-wash of fans that want Bowden’s head on a swivel. And that is not fair to those players who are working as hard as they possible can to win football games. Let us not forget that they are the ones that are busting their rear ends every day in practice to try and get better. They deserve our support, both publicly at the games and in the cyber world of the Internet and on the radio waves.
We also have some quality assistant coaches that are putting in long hours away from family and friends to try and find solutions to why this team is not playing as good as they can. Many of these assistant coaches have been one of the reasons for the strong recruiting classes that the Tigers have signed over the past few years. Those assistant coaches and their relationships with these players are critical as we move through this year and beyond. Keep in mind that these coaches certainly have input into everything that goes on in the course of a game plan for football. But these assistant coaches are also not the final say, and we can certainly assume that they have varying opinions on the ultimate decisions that are being made by the coordinators and Coach Bowden.
So the ire and fire should be directed away from players and assistant coaches and locked in on Vic Koenning, Rob Spence, and Tommy Bowden. These are the three individuals that are driving the Clemson ship towards Tampa or towards meltdown. And many in Clemson Nation have appropriately directed their fire squarely at these three individuals.
With that being said, it is time to move on from the coaching chatter that has become our bye week medicine and intoxication. We play a football game on Thursday night. A football game against a team that some outsiders have stated has passed Clemson as a program. I guess you could say that I feel it is time to circle the wagons. While that seems to be an overused phrase, I don’t think that sulking for two more months would be as enjoyable as beating some football teams on the field. So yes, I guess you could say that I think we need to circle the wagons.
The reality is that decisions regarding Coach Bowden are not going to come at this time. Bowden’s fate will be finalized in early December, not early October. I have heard talk this past week about folks not going to games in protest. Others say they are going to wear a certain color to the games to show their disapproval to Coach Bowden. There have even been a few that stated they are pulling their IPTAY donations to send a clear signal that they do not support Coach Bowden.
This is America, so I suppose you have every right to do all of the above.
But while this is America, that attitude is not what Clemson is about. These players came to Clemson because of who we are. Many of these fans in the stadium attended Clemson because of who we are. Non-alumnus have adopted Clemson as their favorite college because of who we are. Our reputation as loyal followers of our Tigers is who we are.
We are unique, family friendly, and steeped in tradition because of who we are. And I’m not going to allow myself to feel guilty for supporting our team, even if my personal opinions about Coach Bowden and his status at Clemson are mixed at best.
Those that spend their time on the Internet and talk radio spewing vile towards our coaches are not who we are. I would rather that we handle this situation more like we did with Tommy West instead of how we handled the Ken Hatfield ending.
It is time for all of us to move on. We clearly know that Coach Bowden stands at the precipice in his coaching career at Clemson. What else needs to be said about that? Either he gets to Tampa and saves his job or he doesn’t and Clemson will move on in December. Those of you that have made it your purpose to bash Coach Bowden and several members of his staff have made your point loud and clear. We get it. We understand it. And we feel it too.
But how much more do we need to beat that dead horse?
So now, in the meantime of wondering how Coach Bowden’s situation will unfold, we have a college football season going on. We have a huge game in Winston Salem to play. We have some great games to look forward to when Georgia Tech comes to town and when we travel to Boston and Tallahassee. There is so much to look forward to with this season.
But only if you can move on. It is certainly time to do just that.