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Football Father And Son Coaches Go Head To Head

Oct. 20, 1999

CLEMSON, S.C. – Coach Tommy Bowden doesn’t mind using his father, Bobby, to advance the Clemson cause.

Win – or more likely, lose – to top-ranked Florida State on Saturday night, Death Valley, Clemson’s Tiger Paw and the younger Bowden’s program will get coast-to-coast prime-time coverage for a week.

“It’s a nice opportunity since I plan on being here for a long time,” Bowden said Tuesday. “That publicity and marketability would be awfully expensive if you tried to pay for it.”

In college football’s first father-son rivalry, Bowden knows his dad has a 25-year head start on success. “Give me 20 years, give me 10,” Bowden said. “His talent level is so far above ours, I don’t see how anybody realistically could use this as a measuring stick.”

Bowden plans to enjoy history when he walks into Death Valley this week. He won’t be bothered with milestones, like a 300th victory and an eighth straight Atlantic Coast Conference title, that confront his father.

“There’s a lot more at stake for him,” Tommy Bowden said. “Either way, I’ll be an asterisk.”

“What was last year’s score?” he asked Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret. When told the Seminoles won 48-0, Bowden said, “Then all I need is three (a field goal). There’s improvement.”

The Bowden bowl has Tommy and his Tigers thrilled. Bowden says it’s been easy to hold players’ attention and keep them working hard. Too much enthusiasm can wear players out, though.

“Coach told us not to play the game Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday throughout the whole week,” linebacker Chad Carson said. “We have to keep our focus, but not get overexcited.”

Bowden said he would spend most of the week – other than filling all the Bowden family ticket requests – preparing as usual. He won’t worry about outthinking his father or proving his coaching worth through some specially designed play.

Florida State packs enough of a punch from its players that worrying about who coaches them doesn’t always help, Bowden said.

Still, offensive lineman Akil Smith sees a bit more emotion in his first-year coach. “Yeah, there’s some extra pep in his step,” Smith said. “Wouldn’t you feel that way if you were coaching against your father?”

Bowden says he patterns the way he runs his program after his father. He has brought up several times already this week the pride he feels that Bobby Bowden became champion on his own, not as an offshoot to an established dynasty like Alabama or Ohio State.

When Florida State signed to play Auburn, then coached by Tommy’s brother, Terry, Tommy said he hoped that one day he, too, could face his father. “I was thinking that someday, I would like to be that guy,” Tommy said.

Does he think he’ll feel anything special when he shakes hands with his father under the Death Valley lights with 85,000 fans looking on?

“The only thing different will be when I come out to wave the (surrender) flag,” Bowden said.

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