Dec. 1, 1999
By DAVID DROSCHAK, AP Sports Writer
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Upstaged by his father once this season, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden was able to turn the tables on dad this week. Bowden, 45, was defeated by Bobby Bowden in his father’s 300th victory on Oct. 23, but Tommy beat out dad Wednesday for The Associated Press coach of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The younger Bowden, who went 6-5 to lead the Tigers to the Peach Bowl in his first season, received 35 of a possible 68 votes cast by members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Writers Association. Bobby Bowden’s team is 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation, but he came in second with 20 votes.
“I told you I’ve got to get rid of him,” the 70-year-old Bowden said jokingly. “I got rid of Terry (at Auburn), now I’ve got to get rid of Tommy. He’s stealing all of my awards. But you know I’m proud of him.’
The younger Bowden took over a Clemson program that had gone 3-8 – its worst mark since 1975 – but was able to tie Georgia Tech and Virginia for second place in the ACC with a 5-3 league mark.
He did it with an exciting brand of offensive football despite having an undersized offensive line, no real playmaker and a pair of injuries to his starting quarterback.
“Any time you win an award like this it reflects real positively on the players and their effort,” said Bowden, who came to Clemson after a 11-0 season at Tulane.
“The Clemson people have a sense of urgency about them, so you have to coach that way when you come here. There’s not a lot of `wait until next year or we’re rebuilding.’ The players wanted to feel that way, too. And I have an excellent staff.”
Clemson was the only team in the nation to play three undefeated teams – Florida State, Virginia Tech and Marshall – and had only five home games in Death Valley. Still, the young and inexperienced Tigers were in every game. Four of the team’s five losses were by four points or less.
“The people that pay my salary want to see one thing – that the ship is headed in the right direction,” Bowden said. “To be a first-year staff in a first-year program, to be in all 12 games, that is a credit to the players and their attitude.”
Bowden said he looks back fondly on the experience of coaching against his father on national television and being a part of the first game in NCAA history that pitted father against son. “The son was fixing to spoil it for the father,” Bowden said of his team’s lead before losing 17-14. “For him, you couldn’t have asked for a better script. For me, if you could mention a scenario next to winning, if God said you can’t win, that would have been it. It was a very unique experience.”
Bowden only had six seniors on this year’s bowl team. He said he expects to get back 17 or 18 starters for his second season at Clemson, so the future appears bright for yet another coaching Bowden.
“I’ve always felt like Clemson was one of those schools that could do it,” said Bobby Bowden. “What I mean by that is some schools can’t win a national championship. They don’t plan to, they don’t care to, the administration doesn’t want them to. And then there are some that can. I’ve always felt like Clemson was one of those schools.”
Tommy is now 24-9 in his three seasons as a head coach.
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