Tommy Bowden was the twenty-fourth head coach of the Clemson University football team. He was a two-time ACC coach of the year recipient (1999 and 2003), but after nine years without an ACC title, or even a final conference championship game, he resigned in his tenth season on October 13, 2008 with a season record of 3-3. His final record at Clemson is 72-45 for a .615 average. He is 90-49 overall as a head coach.
End of the Bowden era
Clemson had entered the 2008 football season with a number nine preseason ranking, but the Tigers received an embarrassing wake-up call at the hands of Alabama in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in a nationally televised match. Following relatively unimpressive wins against The Citadel, North Carolina State, and first-time opponent South Carolina State, the Tigers dropped two Atlantic Coast Conference games to Maryland and Wake Forest, also nationally televised by ESPN on October 9, leaving Clemson with a .500 record at mid-season, and growing discontent with Bowden's inability to win despite a wealth of player talent.
Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips sought meetings with Tommy Bowden on the morning of October 13 to have a candid, heart-to-heart talk about the football program, and he stated he was surprised when Bowden offered to tender his resignation in mid-season. Phillips accepted Bowden's offer, and emphasized at the afternoon press conference that the departure was voluntary and that the coach had not been "fired."
That being said, it was obvious that discontent with Bowden's stewardship of the team was growing. The coach had been on thin ice in previous seasons after poor starts, but twice his job had been saved by strong finishes. Despite a contract extension agreed to by both parties in December 2007, Bowden was clearly on shaky ground again, and by accepting his offer to resign, the university avoided difficult negotiations later if lame duck Bowden had another "November to remember." Phillips asked assistant head coach and wide receivers coordinator Dabo Swinney to take over the team and urged him to act as head coach and make difficult decisions, knowing that he had the administration's full backing.
Bowden will be paid through the end of the season, and then get a buy-out of $3.5 million negotiated in last December's contract extension.
"I wish them nothing but success and I will be their biggest fan on Saturday" against Georgia Tech, Bowden said.
Text of the Clemson Athletic Department biography
When one looks at Head Coach Tommy Bowden's résumé, the first thing that comes to mind is consistency. Bowden has completed 11 seasons as a Division I head coach, and all 11 of his teams have been bowl eligible at the end of the regular season. Only five other active head coaches have had a team bowl eligible every year since 1997. His 65.4 winning percentage as a head coach is in the top 15 in the nation among active Division I coaches with at least 10 years of experience.
Each of his last eight teams has had a winning record. A winning season in 2006 gave him a Clemson coaching record seven consecutive winning seasons (now eight in a row), and he became just the fifth head coach in ACC history to record seven straight winning seasons with the same program.
There has also been consistency in terms of success against Clemson's in-state rival South Carolina. The Tigers have won seven of the nine meetings since Bowden became Clemson's head coach in 1999, and the 78-percent winning mark is the best of any Tiger head coach in history against the Gamecocks given a minimum of five games. He has an average scoring margin of +9.4 points per game in the rivalry game, and all seven wins have been recorded against future Hall of Fame Head Coaches Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier.
In 11 seasons as a Division I head coach, Bowden has an 87-46 record (.654). In conference games, he has never had a sub-.500 record, and his overall conference record stands at 53-31 (.631).
In nine years at Clemson, he has a 69-42 record (.622) and eight bowl appearances. He has 42 ACC wins as well. The only programs with more ACC wins during this time are Florida State and Georgia Tech. The 69 overall victories are third-most in Clemson history. The 29-7 victory over South Carolina in the 2004 season-finale was not only the 600th win in Clemson history, it moved Bowden ahead of Hall of Fame Coach Jess Neely into third place on Clemson's coaching victories list. Only Frank Howard and Danny Ford are ahead of Bowden.
Clemson has won at least eight games each of the last three years, as he became the first Tiger head coach to record back-to-back eight-win seasons in 15 years.
Twice Bowden has been named ACC Coach-of-the-Year (1999,03), joining Howard, Charley Pell, and Ford as the only two-time recipients of that award in Tiger history. In January of 2006, he was given the Grant Teaff National Coach-of-the-Year Award by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Off the field, Clemson has graduated nearly 80 percent of its seniors in his nine years. Clemson's graduation success rate of 94 percent in 2005 was fourth-best among the 119 Division I-A programs. In 2003, Clemson was #11 in the nation, including second among public institutions, in the NCAA graduation-rate study for scholarship football signees who entered Clemson in 1996. Clemson was #1 in the nation in graduation rate among African-Americans (100 percent). Each of the top-eight semester team GPAs have been recorded under Bowden as well.
The 2007 Tigers had a 9-4 overall record thanks in part to the right arm of first-year starting quarterback Cullen Harper. The Tigers were ranked #21 in the final AP poll with a team that started only six seniors. Harper passed for 2,991 yards and a school-record 27 touchdowns against only six interceptions. He led an offensive unit that averaged 403 yards and 33 points per game.
For the second year in a row, the Tigers had four First-Team All-ACC selections on offense, including wide receiver Aaron Kelly, in 2007. The junior had a Tiger-record 88 receptions for 1,081 yards and 11 touchdown catches (also a school record).
Clemson was ninth in the nation in yards allowed per game (307). The Tigers were also in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense (18.7) and turnover margin (+1.0).
The Tigers ran off two four-game winning streaks in 2007, starting with a season-opening 24-18 win over #19 Florida State. It was Clemson's fourth win in the last five games against the Seminoles. The season was also highlighted by a 70-point scoring performance in a win over eventual MAC champion Central Michigan and a 44-10 win over Wake Forest. The Tigers also defeated rival South Carolina 23-21 on Mark Buchholz's field goal as time expired.
His 2006 team set numerous offensive records on its way to totaling 55 touchdowns and scoring nearly 33 points per game. Clemson had four First-Team All-ACC selections on offense, including 1,000-yard rusher James Davis, and the Tigers led the ACC in a majority of offensive categories.
The Tigers had a landmark 31-7 win over #13 Georgia Tech at Memorial Stadium. Clemson dominated the Yellow Jackets thanks in part to 332 combined rushing yards by James Davis and C.J. Spiller. That same weekend, ESPN College GameDay made it's first-ever appearance in Tigertown. It was the second win over a top-15 team in 2006, as the Tigers also won at #9 Florida State.
In November of 2006, Bowden was named a semifinalist for the Maxwell Club George Munger National Coach-of-the-Year Award. A big reason for his naming was the fact that the Tigers overcame numerous injuries, including the loss of linebackers Anthony Waters and Tramaine Billie. His team defeated ACC Champion Wake Forest, the second straight season he beat the league champion.
Gaines Adams was one of the top defensive linemen in the nation. He was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award and Ted Hendricks Award as well as earning unanimous first-team All-America honors. He was named ACC Defensive Player-of-the-Year and was a major reason Clemson was in the top 20 in the nation in six defensive categories.
In 2005, Clemson had an 8-4 record, including a 3-2 mark against top-25 ranked teams. All four of the losses were by six points or less and by a total of 14 points. Two of those losses came in overtime, therefore the Tigers lost the four games by a combined five points at the end of regulation.
The 2005 team won six of its last seven games, including a 19-10 win over Colorado in the Champs Sports Bowl. The Tigers had the best record among the 12 ACC teams over that time period.
The Tigers earned close victories to start the year against #17 Texas A&M and Maryland, then lost three nailbiters in a row. But just like the two previous years, Clemson won five of its last six regular-season games, including wins over #16 Florida State (eventual ACC Champion) and #19 South Carolina in the final two regular-season games. It was the first time since 1983 that Clemson defeated top-20 teams in consecutive games.
Clemson was in the top 25 in four national defensive rankings, including 11th in scoring defense. After the win over Colorado in the Champs Sports Bowl, the Tigers were ranked #21 in the final AP and USA Today polls. Clemson had three victories over top-20 ranked teams, the most in one season by a Clemson team since the 1989 season.
In four seasons at Clemson, Charlie Whitehurst became the most prolific signal-caller in school history. He set 46 Clemson records, including passing yards (9,665), completions (817), completion percentage (59.5), and touchdown passes (49). He directed Clemson to 25 wins as a starting quarterback, the second-most victories in school history.
Bowden's 2004 Tiger team featured a defense that was 11th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. The unit had 42 sacks to finish in the top 10 in the nation. Leroy Hill was named ACC Defensive Player-of-the-Year and an AP Third-Team All-American. Cornerback Justin Miller was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award and was a second-team All-American as a kick returner. Wide receiver Airese Currie led the ACC in receptions and receiving yards.
Clemson played a complete game at #10 Miami (FL) on November 6, 2004 and beat the Hurricanes 24-17 in overtime in the Orange Bowl. It was the second overtime win of the year for the Tigers, who are 4-4 in extra-session games under Bowden.
Clemson overcame a 14-point halftime deficit, not to mention overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit, a rarity against Miami. The Hurricanes had been 174-2 when leading after three quarters since 1985.
The win over Miami gave Bowden three wins over top-10 programs in a 13-game span, something that had been done at Clemson just once previously (1981 National Championship team). All three of those programs (Florida State, Tennessee, Miami) have won the national title within the last decade.
During the last five seasons, Bowden has won 11 games over coaches who have won the national title (Bobby Bowden (four times), Phillip Fulmer, Larry Coker, Holtz (twice), Spurrier (twice), and Howard Schnellenberger). These big wins have stimulated interest in the program. The Tigers averaged 81,335 fans per home game in 2007. Clemson has finished in the top 20 in home football attendance each of the nine seasons Bowden has been at Clemson, and six of the top-10 average attendance seasons have come during his tenure.
With Clemson's selection to the 2004 Peach Bowl, Bowden became the first head coach in Clemson and ACC history to take a team to a bowl game in each of his first five seasons. In fact, no Tiger coach had ever done so more than twice to open his career. Under Bowden's direction, Clemson has also appeared in the Peach Bowl in 1999, the Gator Bowl in 2000, the 2001 Humanitarian Bowl, 2002 Tangerine Bowl, 2004 Peach Bowl, 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, and 2006 Music City Bowl prior to its invitation to the 2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The 2004 Peach Bowl appearance meant that it was the first time since the 1991 senior class that Clemson went to a bowl game five straight years. Clemson's red-shirt seniors of 2003 were the first group he recruited, so it is an indication of the firm foundation his first group set.
The 2003 season was a breakthrough year in many ways. Clemson earned its highest-ever win over a ranked team with a 26-10 win over #3 Florida State. The Tigers also beat #24 Virginia in a thrilling overtime contest. The 39-3 win over a bowl-bound Georgia Tech team in Atlanta was Clemson's largest victory margin in the series since 1900 as well.
The 2003 victory over Florida State, Clemson's first in 12 tries since the Seminoles joined the ACC, was the beginning of a four-game winning streak to close the season. In those four games, Clemson outscored its opponents 156-48, an average score of 39-12. Clemson defeated South Carolina in Columbia by a score of 63-17. It was the most points ever scored by a team in series history and the Tigers' largest victory margin in the series since 1900.
The season concluded with a 27-14 win over #6 Tennessee, the highest-ranked team Clemson has defeated in a bowl game since 1981, when the Tigers beat #4 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to claim the national title. As a result, Clemson finished with nine wins and a #22 national ranking.
Over the final four games of the season, Bowden defeated two coaches (Bobby Bowden, Holtz) who had already earned 200 wins to become the first coach in NCAA history to beat a pair of 200-game winners in a month's time. He also registered wins over three coaches (Bowden, Holtz, Fulmer) who had previously won a national title.
The 2002 season included victories over bowl teams Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, and a third victory in four years over arch-rival South Carolina. Clemson gained 434 yards of total offense in the 27-20 win over the Gamecocks, the most yards against Holtz's defense all season.
The 2002 Clemson defense featured two of the top 21 players in the nation in terms of interceptions per game. Miller had eight interceptions, best among all freshmen nationally, and Brian Mance had six in an All-America season. The defense was one of the most improved units in the ACC and ranked in the top 10 in the nation in interceptions (21).
Clemson had another record-setting season in 2001, a year that culminated with a Humanitarian Bowl win over Louisiana Tech. Clemson set school records for points scored, touchdowns, and total offense in a bowl game.
The 2001 campaign demonstrated Bowden's ability to win in the long run, as he had the second-youngest "two-deep" in the ACC. Thirty-four of his top 44 players were underclassmen. Fourteen different freshmen saw action in 2001, including 10 who played at least 10 games.
Bowden has a 69-42 record (.622) as the Tiger head coach and is 87-46 (.654) overall. He has recorded that ledger against a difficult schedule. In his first year, Clemson's schedule was among the top 10 in the nation. In 2001, his squad beat five teams that finished with a winning record, tied for the third-highest figure in Tiger history. One of the wins was a 47-44 overtime win at #9 Georgia Tech. It was the Tigers' highest-ranked road win in 20 years.
In both 2003 and 2004, Clemson's schedule strength once again ranked in the top 25 by the Sagarin rating. The 2005 team faced five top-25 teams in the regular season, a first in school history, and the 2006 squad faced eight bowl teams.
When Bowden came to Clemson in 1998, he inherited a team with a 3-8 record. By late October of 2000, just 14 months after his first game, Clemson was ranked #3 (USA Today) in the nation after an 8-0 start. That ranking was Clemson's highest in 16 years. The #14 final ranking by that same publication was its highest final listing since the 1990 season.
Making a swift improvement is nothing new for Bowden. In 1997, he took over a 4-7 Tulane program and brought the Green Wave to a 7-4 mark in his first year. In 1998, the improvement continued with an 11-0 regular season and #7 national ranking. In 1999, Bowden elevated the Tigers from 3-8 to a bowl game and a 6-6 final record. The 2000 Tigers concluded the season with a 9-3 record, their highest win total since 1993.
Considerable improvement is a common phrase for Bowden-coached teams. In each of his first four years he coached at the Division I level, his team showed at least a three-win improvement over the previous year, believed to be a first in Division I history. Bowden is just the third coach in history to bring the Tigers to a three-win improvement in consecutive years and was one of just two Division I coaches to do it over the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
In 2000 and 2001, his dynamic offense produced a Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback Woodrow Dantzler, who placed his name next to 52 school records. In 2001, he became the first player in Division I history to total 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season. He was a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award in 2000 and 2001.
Center Kyle Young was a finalist for the Rimington Award in 2000 and 2001, and won the ACC's Jim Tatum Award, presented to the league's top student-athlete. He was one of eight players nationally to receive a National Football Foundation Scholarship and became just the second offensive lineman in college football history to become a three-time first-team Academic All-American. Linebacker Chad Carson also performed well in the classroom and on the gridiron. He and Young were first-team Academic All-Americans in 2000 and 2001.
Bowden's second Clemson team (2000) was one of the most decorated in history. Six different Tigers were finalists or semifinalists for national position awards, including linebacker Keith Adams, who was one of three finalists for the Butkus Award. Clemson finished the season 9-3 in 2000 and had a #14 final ranking in the USA Today poll.
When Bowden arrived at Clemson, he had one simple goal - improvement. Bowden warned supporters that Clemson was unlikely to be a bowl participant in 1999, but his main focus was to improve. His goal of improvement was reached, and he was happy to be wrong about his prediction, as the Tigers were invited to the 1999 Peach Bowl.
In 1999, Bowden accomplished a personal milestone that no Clemson coach had attained since 1981, the year the Tigers won the National Championship. He became the first Clemson coach since Ford to be named ACC Coach-of-the-Year.
Bowden led the Tigers to a 6-6 record and 5-3 mark in the ACC against the nation's seventh-toughest schedule according to the Sagarin rating. The Tigers finished tied for second with Georgia Tech and Virginia in the final ACC standings, a six-place improvement over the previous season, the greatest one-season jump in ACC history in league play.
The Tigers also made a four-game ACC-win improvement in 1999. It was just the fifth time in ACC history that a team made that big of a league victory jump. He had taken over a team with a losing record and brought it to a bowl game in his first year, just the sixth coach in ACC history to do so.
The Clemson program set or tied 41 school records in Bowden's first year, including 26 on offense. Ironically, Bowden's first Tulane team set or tied 26 offensive school records.
The improvements in the ACC standings were due in large part to an innovative offensive attack. The Tiger offense ended the year averaging 402.6 yards per game, nearly a 100-yard per game improvement over 1998. The Tigers scored 26.8 points per game in 1999 compared to 19.8 in 1998.
Keith Adams, a sophomore in 1999, finished with 186 tackles, most in the nation, and broke the Clemson single-season tackle record held by Anthony Simmons. They all contributed to the 17th-best pass efficiency defense in the nation, a unit that had 19 interceptions, ninth-most in the country.
Four of Clemson's losses in 1999 came against teams ranked in the top 15 of the final AP poll. Bowden Bowl I, the first meeting between father and son head coaches in college football history, took place on October 23, 1999. Bowden faced his father Bobby's top-ranked Florida State team in Death Valley in front of a national television audience. The Tigers lost a tough battle to the eventual National Champions by a score of 17-14, the closest margin of victory for the Seminoles and the fewest points they recorded all season by two touchdowns.
Making strong improvement in his first year with a program was nothing new for Bowden. In the two seasons he was the head coach at Tulane, Bowden took a team that had been 4-18 in the two years previous to his arrival, and he emotionally and numerically reversed the team's fortunes with an 18-4 record, posted an 11-1 conference mark, and finished the 1998 season ranked #7 in the nation in both polls. Tulane and Tennessee were the only undefeated teams in college football in 1998.
His Tulane team averaged 39.7 points, 5.1 touchdowns, 463 yards of total offense, 270.5 passing yards, and 192.6 rushing yards. The Green Wave averaged 6.3 yards per play and converted on third down 47 percent of the time. Some say the most telling statistic in terms of wins and losses along with the most telling statistic when it comes to coaching ability is turnover margin. They were fifth in the nation in turnover margin each of his seasons.
It did not take Bowden long to put Tulane back on the college football landscape. In his first year, Tulane was picked last in the preseason polls of Conference USA. But he led the New Orleans-based school to a 7-4 record, a second-place conference standing with just one league loss, and set 33 school records in the process, including 26 on offense.
Tulane's accomplishments on offense were noteworthy in 1997, but its offensive numbers reached uncharted areas in 1998. Tulane was the only school in the nation that averaged over 300 passing yards per game and 200 rushing yards per game. The team was fourth in the nation in total offense (507.1) and second in scoring (45.4).
The Green Wave scored 40 or more points in eight games in 1998, including each of the last seven games. In one game, the Green Wave scored 72 points and rolled up 704 yards of total offense. They converted 52 percent of their third-down opportunities for the season and had just 11 turnovers in over 800 plays. The 1998 season saw the program post a perfect 11-0 regular season under Bowden, its first perfect regular season since 1931. The Green Wave won Conference USA, its first league title since Tulane won the SEC in 1949. Bowden was named Conference USA Coach-of-the-Year as well.
His team ranked #7 in the final AP poll and was a mainstay there from the third week of the season. Tulane had not been ranked at any time since 1979 and had not been ranked in a final poll since 1973. After Bowden accepted the job at Clemson, Tulane defeated Brigham Young in the Liberty Bowl.
A look to the list of coaches who had undefeated seasons in the 1990s shows two other men named Bowden. His father, Florida State Head Coach Bobby Bowden, had a perfect regular season in 1996 and 1999, while his brother Terry posted a perfect regular season at Auburn in 1993. Obviously, the Bowdens are the first family of college coaching, and this "Wonder Years" environment had a lot to do with Tommy Bowden's decision to enter coaching.
The fatherly influence of a college coach who reached 300 career wins against his son in 1999 also had an influence on other members of the family. Bobby Bowden is the winningest coach in Division I history. Terry has been a head coach at Samford and Auburn, posting a 47-17-1 record at the latter.
Tommy Bowden began his college football experience as a walk-on wide receiver at West Virginia. He played for his father between 1973-75 and then for Frank Cignetti during the 1976 season.
As a junior, he caught 15 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown. Bowden remained at West Virginia for the 1977 season and began his coaching career, serving as a graduate assistant on Cignetti's staff. His interest in coaching only became more intense after that first year as a graduate assistant. His father then hired him as a secondary coach at Florida State for the 1978 season.
That experience confirmed to Bowden that he was in a profession that would be his life's work. The Seminoles posted a 19-4 mark in his two seasons at Florida State.
In 1980, Bowden joined the staff at East Carolina, where he coached for the spring-practice session of 1980. That spring, he moved to Auburn and served as running backs coach in 1980. Among the players he coached was James Brooks, who went on to a 13-year NFL career and is still second in Auburn history in rushing.
In 1981, Bowden returned to Tallahassee as the tight ends coach. In two more years at Florida State, the Seminoles posted a 15-8 mark. The 1982 team ranked #13 in the final poll, claimed a 9-3 record, and won a Gator Bowl title.
From 1983-86, Bowden served under Steve Sloan at Duke as the quarterbacks coach and was named coordinator in 1985. In 1984, he made his first trip to Clemson as a coach. Among the players he tutored was future NFL player Anthony Dilweg.
After four years at Duke, Bowden became wide receivers coach at Alabama under Bill Curry. It was there that he refined his offensive coaching prowess under noted offensive mind Homer Smith.
In 1990, Bowden returned to a coordinator role, serving as Kentucky's offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach. That year, he helped the Wildcats to their first upper division SEC finish since 1984.
In 1991, Bowden joined Pat Dye at Auburn. He remained with the Auburn program for six years, his longest stint as a college assistant. During his tenure, Auburn had a combined record of 46-20-2, including a perfect 11-0 season in 1993. Auburn had four AP top-25 seasons, including a #4 final ranking in 1993 and a #9 final ranking in 1994. The SEC Tigers were 20-1-1 in 1993-94 combined. Bowden worked under his brother Terry for his last four years at Auburn and the Tigers had a 36-9-1 record with both Bowdens on the coaching staff.
Born July 10, 1954 in Birmingham, AL, he is married to the former Linda Joan White, who he first met when the two were in school together at Morgantown (WV) High School. The couple has two children, Ryan (26), a 2004 Clemson graduate and 2007 law school graduate of Regent University, and Lauren (23), a 2007 graduate of Clemson, who is currently a secondary school educator.
Subsequently, the Bowden's sold their Clemson home, and as of October 2009, were residing in a Panama City Beach, Florida, condominium.
|Preceded by: Tommy West||Clemson University Football Coaches||Succeeded by: Dabo Swinney|
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