CLEMSON, SC - Nearly a year after he was introduced as Clemson's new head coach on the same podium, Tommy Bowden on Monday accepted an invitation for his football team to participate in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
Clemson will play a Southeastern Conference opponent in the Dec. 30 game, which will be televised on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. from the Georgia Dome. The opponent will not be determined until after the SEC championship game between Alabama and Florida on Saturday.
"It's a credit to the players that we're going to a bowl," said Bowden from the auditorium of the McFadden Building. "As a coach you feel an urgency to improve, but you're not sure if your players feel it."
Bowden took over a team that finished 3-8 last season and wasn't sure that he could take Clemson to a bowl in his first year.
"It was not a goal," he said. "It might have been of (Athletic Director) Bobby (Robinson) and some of the other administration, but there were so many other things that needed to be done. We didn't necessarily need to go to a bowl in the first year."
As it turned out, Clemson finished 6-5 playing the only three teams in division 1-A that remained undefeated through the regular season.
"We really exceeded the things that I thought we would do," said Robinson, who mentioned Clemson's increase in attendance and an increase in student attendance as signs that Bowden has turned things around. "There are a lot of people that think we're going in the right direction and I'm just one of them."
Now, Clemson will go against one of four teams from the SEC - Mississippi State, Georgia, Kentucky or Ole Miss.
"We want to play against the best team possible," said Clemson safety Robert Carswell, who is from Stone Mountain, Ga. "We'll get ready to compete."
If Bowden didn't set a bowl game as a goal, the players did. According to Carswell, there was a players-only meeting before the season started. "We wanted to go to a bowl coming into the season for the seniors that weren't going to have another chance, for the others that wanted to taste it again and for the freshmen to get a good start."
Clemson is 1-3 in the Peach Bowl. The Tigers have been to three Peach Bowls in the 90's, most recently in 1997 when they lost to Terry Bowden-coached Auburn, 21-17.
The team will practice nine or ten times at Clemson before breaking for Christmas and then arriving in Atlanta on Dec. 26.
"Practice won't chance much from what we were doing," said Bowden. "Winning is still important and we'll practice to win."
Tickets can be ordered by calling 1-800-Clemson.