Dan Scott Interview: Tommy Bowden

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Dan Scott: Tommy, welcome to the show. How are you?

Tommy Bowden: Good Dan, thank you.

Dan: How was the summer? How was the vacation, if there was a vacation?

Tommy: Well yeah, I take some time off to go to West Virginia for a couple of days and I come back here and work a little bit, then go to Florida with my family. Uh, brothers, and sisters, father and mother. Then come back a few days, and then head down to see my in-laws. Then it?s over. So it?s over now. (laughs) Summer?s over for a coach like me anyway. A coach should have another week or so off. But, I?ve got to come in and get things organized for when we go back.

Dan: Well, that usually happens this time of year. The fan base is all revved up. They?ve got not much going on right now except speculating about the 2007 College Football Season. And then that goes for some of the national folks too. I have to say this, you have kept the national guys for a few years now on their toes at both sides of the spectrum. Just here in the last week we?ve had Stewart Mandel from Sports Illustrated call you one of the ?Five Worst Coaches in the Country??

Tommy: Sports Illustrated?

Dan: Yes, Sports Illustrated.

Tommy: I?ve always wanted to be in Sports Illustrated

Dan and Tommy: (Laughing)

Tommy: I wanted in the Swimsuit Issue and I get in this one.

Dan: The CBS Sportsline guys, coach, one guy said you will be the first coach to be fired. Dennis Dodd says wait a minute; you?ll be the guy that wins 10 games who plays for the ACC Championship Game this year. I know you don?t necessarily pay attention to all that, but how does that kind of national attention on either side of the spectrum affect your program?

Tommy: ...Recruiting is going pretty good right now. We just set an all-time record in the Clemson history for season ticket sales. So it doesn?t seem to have a negative affect. As far as myself, it?s part of the profession. It goes with the job description of being a Division 1-A Football Coach, especially at a place like Clemson. So, I?m really not affected one way or the other. Doesn?t look like, you know like I said we just broke the all-time record for ticket sales and recruiting is going as good as it?s ever been. Those are the things that are most critical. I guess it?s good for media banter.

Dan: Well, even I guess a little closer to home. I?ve discussed this before and you know I won?t talk about anything on the air that I won?t ask you about directly, but you have had your name associated with that term ?Hot Seat? here at Clemson before and those national guys are throwing it around again. And then, I want to ask you about this and you can take it in any direction you want to go; even last year after the bowl game when we had the wrap up meetings with the media with yourself first and then Terry Don Phillips. He said a couple of things, if you do what the media does and that?s read between the lines, that I found very interesting:

First, you?ve got four years left on your contract so there wasn?t going to be an extension right now. That by itself, no problem. But then he also let it be known for the first time that there was a contingency fund out there and that if they needed to get into it to buy out any coach and his contract, including the football coach, they had access to it. And he had never mentioned that before. And if you read between the lines, which the media does, we come up with, ?Hey that might be a subtle message that this guy needs to win some football games this year.?

I know you have a lot more direct conversations with Terry Don Phillips. Are you feeling any undue pressure this year that maybe you haven?t felt in year?s past?

Tommy: No, you know it?s pretty much always been the same here. I?ve been here nine years and every third year I think I?ve been on the hot seat. Kind of like locusts, you know, they come out every 17 years, so it?s not uncommon. ... You know a job of this magnitude, and you know it?s the nature of the beast. I think it makes good media writing. And you?ll have to ask him whether he was addressing a question or whether he brought up?I?m not real familiar with the environment on how the question was asked or whether he brought it up. And it sounds like it might have been a question asked. I would imagine that there?s every Division 1-A program has a contingency plan for contracts, I mean that doesn?t seem real uncommon to me. Of course, I?ve been doing this for 30 years, so it?s not uncommon to me. It might be uncommon to people not familiar with this profession. So those don?t seem like things out of the ordinary. But then, I don?t spend a lot of time thinking about or talking about unless I?m asked like you asked me.

Dan: Do coaches have contingency plans as well?

Tommy: Well, I think that?s pretty much been proven. You know Saban had a contingency plan (laughing). He had one at Miami and he had one when he left Michigan St. So I would imagine that every coach has got a contingency plan.

Dan: When you talk about this 2007 team, a lot of focus on, well you?ve got nine starters back on defense or whatever the number is and you?ve got to replace X number of starters on offense. But the number I look at that?s kind of fascinating, you?ve got 50 lettermen returning off of this team. An awful lot of young talent that?s seen a lot of playing time the last year or two.

Tommy: Yeah and there?s two ways you can look at it. I believe of the 12 teams in the conference, we had the least amount of starters returning. I think that might be true. But we do have one of the largest lettermen class. That means you?ve got a lot of young guys that have played. So, that?s also a good sign. So I?d say there are some pros and cons in both of those situations. No. 1 - A lot of lettermen, No. 2 - the least amount of starters returning. So there are some talented young guys. They?re going to fill some spots of starters we?ve lost.

Tom Van Hoy: From a leadership standpoint, how important is it for those (seniors) to step in and play this year?

Tommy: Well, it?s going to be very important, but I think with such a small class and then some of them not being starters, that it?s going to be very important that our underclassmen take over some of that role. I think it?s most important for a senior to step up, but with such a small class, I think it?s going to be more so important this year that some of our underclassmen step up in that role and demand great effort, off the field behavior, things like that that are kind of out of the coach?s control when you don?t have access to your team that the leadership steps up. But with just such small numbers that?s going to be very important.

Cobb Oxford: The No. 1 concern entering this season?

Tommy: The No. 1 concern I?d say might be injuries. You know, staying healthy. Like going through spring ball, or going through preseason I should say, and coming out, I would say that would be a concern. Kicking with two new kickers is going to be a huge concern. I?d probably say those two things, injuries and the kicking game. Kicking game might probably be No. 1.

Dan: And talking about your concerns, you mentioned two and neither one of them was the quarterback position and that obviously is getting a lot of attention elsewhere, from the fan base. Cullen Harper established himself as the clear No. 1 coming out of the spring. If that continues and he has an equal fall, do you consider red-shirting Willy Korn? Would you like to red-shirt him? Or is Willy Korn going to play regardless this year?

Tommy: It just depends on what happens the next three weeks. You mentioned, well if he continues to make progress like he did. Well you also have to look at the progress made by the guy behind him. Is he making equal progress? If he?s making equal progress or even more and he?s closed the gap, then it might be a situation where two might have to play. It might not. Until you play out the scenario through the three weeks of preseason practice you won?t ever know. You kind of described half the scenario with Cullen making progress. Well yeah, he would. But how much does the other guy make? And I think that?s going to be the key.

Dan: In a perfect world, for Tommy Bowden this year, what happens at that position? Do you play two quarterbacks or do you red-shirt Willy Korn?

Tommy: Well, I think most teams would prefer to have one guy. Now, it?s awful good to have two talented quarterbacks or even more so than that because of the injury factor, you?d like to have another guy ready to in case of an injury to the first guy or a performance in a particular game. I don?t have any reservations of doing that. It really hasn?t played out that way since I?ve been here, but I would not have reservations doing it.

Tom: Coach you lost some very good offensive linemen from a year ago, veteran guys, experienced. How do you feel about your offensive line this year?

Tommy: Well, I think they kind of make a name, they?ve got to make a name for themselves. We had the potential to be really talented and we could start four seniors with McDuffie, Richardson, Capote and Pilgrim. We could also only start two with Richardson and McDuffie. It?s going to be anxious to see how those seniors step up and if not, how some of the younger guys respond. We?ve got some very talented young guys and it?s just a matter of experience. You just can?t really, it?s hard to replace that at that position because they do so much combination blocking together. There are so many calls involved in identifying a 7-man front, an 8-man front, 3 linebacker scheme, 2 linebacker scheme, and different techniques. Experience is awful important in that area. We have potential to have experience with four seniors. And we have potential to have maybe more talented guys on the field and not have experience. That?s something we?ll obviously have a lot of attention in our three weeks of preseason practice.

Dan: Tommy, before we let you go, I?ve got to ask you about Daddy. Apparently he?s gotten tired of getting kicked around by you a little bit and maybe some other folks too. He went out and hired himself just about a whole new, all-star assistant coaching staff. What did you guys talk about during the family vacation? Is he making any promises to come back and try to regain family supremacy from you?

Tommy: I didn?t talk a whole lot. He was too busy paying the bills because I won last year. He?s paying for breakfast, paying for dinner, paying for the hotel. Of course, I knew, I coached with Jimbo, coached with Trickett, coached with Amato. I coached with three of those guys. I?m trying to think, now the other guys I haven?t coached with. So I?ve coached with three of those guys. You know he had an excellent staff and he has an excellent staff now. It?s going to kind of create some renewed enthusiasm and vigor, especially on their offensive side of the ball. I think it?ll probably generate some enthusiasm defensively, because of the changes made on that side. He?s added some quality guys. And of course Todd Stroud, the new strength coach, which I?ve coached with and very familiar with. He?s made the most changes he?s ever made and it?s going to be interesting to see how his team responds to that much turnover. My father?s got a lot of experience, so he?ll turn it into a positive I?m sure.

Dan: You talked with us a little bit about this last year your brother, Jeff was kind of the fan lightening rod, he?s no longer on your father?s staff. How is he and how has he handled his transition out of coaching for Florida State?

Tommy: He?s done good. As you well know, this is a very humbling profession. Everybody gets humbled. I have been. Terry has been. My father has been. Along with other coaches, so, he?s handled that part of it well. Anytime you?re in the public arena it?s tough on wife and children and things of that nature. I?m sure he?ll resurface next year. He?s been an awful good coach for a long time. Few years ago, you know they won the Conference Championship when they upset Virginia Tech. They had a very good offensive performance by his staff. And he?s done well this year in the bowl game against UCLA. He?ll resurface, he?s a good coach. Just hate it happens, but he?s got a good support system in his family, I think with Dad and his brothers and sisters.

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