Note: The following appears in the June issue of Orange: The Experience. For full access to all of the publication’s content, join IPTAY today by calling 864-656-2115.
Tim Bourret, longtime sports information director and current director of football communications, first came to Clemson in 1978 following a graduate assistantship at his alma mater, Notre Dame. As he heads into his 40th season promoting the Tiger football program, it will be his first holding a new title: Hall of Famer. On June 12, he was inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Hall of Fame in Orlando, Fla. We caught up with Bourret for an extensive Q&A.
Q: When did you first learn you were going to be inducted into the hall of fame?Bourret: I got a call at home from (Notre Dame media relations director) John Heisler. We talk every now and then, but I wasn’t expecting anything special from the call. I figured he was calling to shoot the breeze about something at Notre Dame. We talked for a while, and then he said, “I’ve got something to tell you.” But it was neat, because when he was being inducted a few years ago, I was the one to call him. It meant a lot to hear it from someone I had known a long time. We lived together my last summer at Notre Dame. As fate would have it, that’s how I found out about the job at Clemson. John was dating an assistant SID at North Carolina. She had received a notification in the mail about a job opening at Clemson, and she knew I was looking for something. And that’s how I found out about the assistant director’s position at Clemson.
Q: How special was it to follow in the footsteps of Bob Bradley, who is in the Clemson Ring of Honor, and now both of you have been inducted into the CoSIDA Hall of Fame?Bourret: He started at Clemson in 1955, the year I was born. That tells you what a good place Clemson is to work. After I came down for an interview, I went back to Notre Dame and football practice had already started. I saw Roger Valdiserri, then the sports information director at Notre Dame. He said “Bob Bradley is a good ole’ boy.” But, he meant he’d be a good person to work for. They were friends for a long time. I learned so much from Roger and Mr. Bradley. I’ve been very fortunate to learn from two hall of famers, two of the best who have ever done it.
Q: What were your early years of your sports information at Clemson like?Bourret: It was just me and ‘Mr. B’ that first year. In the 1978 football season, we were 11-1 and ranked among the top 10 in the country most of the year. My main responsibility was basketball, but I also had to handle Olympic sports. We had six student assistants, and we relied on them heavily. I’m still close with all of them today. When you start a job and you’ve been there a long time, you remember that first group the most.
Q: Broadcasting has played a big part in your career, primarily with basketball. What has that meant to you?Bourret: It’s been a lot of fun. I’m surprised more SIDs don’t do color analysis. There’s no extra preparation involved, because you’re already handling the game notes for your team. People always ask me how I remembered all the stats. Before computers and word processors, we used typewriters and retyped each player’s statistical line after each game. So, it gets ingrained. Working with Jim Phillips until 2003 was incredible. He was a terrific friend, but also a great broadcaster. He was professional in everything he did. The same with Pete Yanity. We both grew up in Connecticut, so we had a common tie. We’d known each other a long time. Tony Castricone has done a great job since he came on board a few years ago.
Q: One of your passions is golf. What has your relationship been like with Larry Penley and his program?Bourret: Larry came as a freshman in 1977-78, the year before I got to Clemson. I knew him as a player, and when Bobby Robinson decided to join the administration, Larry got the job at a very young age. He’s a terrific guy to work with. He took a bunch of us to Ireland and Scotland in 1999 and 2001, and those were great times. But one of the most rewarding days in my career came in 2003, when we won the national championship at Oklahoma State. They were viewed as the best long-term program in college golf. To beat them on their home course on the day they had pointed toward for many years was unbelievable. I got a picture holding the championship trophy with two of my friends, Al Adams and Sanford Rogers.
Q: What has this football run over the past six years been like?Bourret: Dabo (Swinney) was right, these are the good ole’ days. It’s been better than a rebirth. We had some great teams in the 1980s. But these past two years, knowing you were going to win in so many games, was a special feeling. My biggest task has been keeping up with all of the records that have been established by Deshaun Watson and coach Swinney. It’s been so great to be nationally relevant.
Q: What was the final scoring play of the national championship game like from your viewpoint?Bourret: I was in the bench area and watched it from the Jumbotron because we had so many coaches and players around. We’ve had two instances the past two years that have come down to the very end, and I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” One was the Notre Dame game in 2015 when it came down to stopping a two-point conversion with seven seconds left. And then this past national championship game when we ran the last play against Alabama. But you had a feeling of confidence that we were going to be able to do it. And that goes back to the team’s leader, Deshaun Watson. He seemed so calm and in control. To see Hunter Renfrow catch the game-winning touchdown pass was a great story. His uncle, William, actually lived with me. He was a baseball manager in 1980. That was really special to see. The whole year was unbelievable.
Q: You’ve seen Dabo Swinney grow up before your eyes. This past spring, he signed a football for your oldest childhood friend who was battling cancer. What was the story behind that?Bourret: John Scully and I were on the same Little League team, and we knew each other for 50 years. He took care of my parents in my absence when they were up in age. When my parents passed away in Connecticut, he took care of my house. John fought cancer for a long time, and had gotten worse around the first of May. Through the years, John followed Clemson sports pretty closely. Prior to the 2015 season, I thought it would be neat for him to meet Dabo. When coach was coming up for the “Car Wash” in Bristol, Conn., John picked us up. He had a 1999 Saturn, and Dabo was giving him a hard time about his car. In classic John fashion, in following Clemson as close as he did, he asked “Coach, when are we ever going to run some fake punts?” We had talked about it…Dabo had not run a fake punt in years. And of course, at the end of the 2015 season against Oklahoma, we ran a fake punt to perfection to Christian Wilkins. Dabo and I had talked about it all year long after he asked that. So when John was sick and I was headed to visit him, I got Dabo to sign a football for him. He signed it, “John, get well. I need another ride in your car. We’re 28-2 since the last one.” And then he said, “PS, we’re working on another fake punt play. We’re calling it Scully.” And he remembered that on his own…I didn’t tell him to write that. He met John only one time, but it shows what kind of guy Dabo is. John passed away two days after I gave him that ball.
Q: As you head into your 40th football season, can you put your career into perspective?Bourret: I never thought I’d be here this long when I first came. The day before I left, Mr. Valdiserri told me that another position had been approved at Notre Dame. He wanted me to come back after a year at Clemson. But that didn’t end up happening. Then, I agreed to be the head SID at Pittsburgh a few years later, but came back. I was goal-oriented at the time. But it’s special I’ve been here this long. It’s been a great time, and I’m incredibly humbled to be inducted into the hall of fame. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed it is that I see a lot of similarities between Notre Dame and Clemson. I’m still friends with student assistants I worked with at Notre Dame, and that’s the same case here. I think another common denominator is the passion of the fanbases. The interest in the two programs is very high. Clemson is right there now in terms of national interest, so that part has been very rewarding.
November 12, 2018