Nov. 5, 2001
When you hear the name Bowden, the first thing that comes to mind is college football. The Bowden name has become one of prominence in this arena. Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden has made a name for himself, his teams and a reputation that his sons in coaching must live up to. Since taking over a struggling FSU program in 1976, Bowden has established a winning program, which is one of the most recognized and respected programs in the country. He has not had a losing season since his first year at FSU. For 14 straight seasons, Florida State ranked among the AP poll’s top-five. Also in those 14 seasons, Bobby’s teams have won 10 or more games, a national championship in 1993 and another in 1999. Since joining the ACC in 1991, FSU is 70-3 with nine conference championships under their belt. This is all attributed to Coach Bowden and the chemistry that is apart of all of his FSU squads.
The Bowden family has become the “First Family” of college football. Bobby and his wife, Ann, have six children, two girls and four boys: Robyn, Steve, Tommy, Terry, Jeff and Ginger. All four boys have at one time participated in football and three of the four have chosen college football as their occupation. The Bowden sons’ involvement and accomplishments in this profession has definitely added prestige to the family name.
Tommy, the third-year head coach at Clemson, is the second oldest Bowden son. He is married to Linda and the couple has two children, Ryan and Lauren. It has not taken Tommy long to accomplish in three years, what most young head coaches would like to accomplish in 10 years. When Tommy came to Clemson in 1999, he only had one thing in mind: improvement. He inherited a 3-8 team that needed its faith restored in Tiger football and won six games in 1999 and nine games in 2000. In his first year at Clemson, Tommy became the first coach since Danny Ford in 1981 to be named ACC Coach of the Year. The Tigers’ improvements in the ACC standings in 1999 were attributed to Tommy and his innovative offensive attack. Last year, Tommy led the Tigers back to familiar territory in the USA Today/ESPN poll in October when the Tigers started the season 8-0. That ranking was the Tigers’ first in 16 years. Tommy’s leadership and inspiration tactics with his teams comes as no surprise, considering that he has Bowden genes, and a spirit that will not allow him to quit.
Terry, who has past experience in collegiate football, is currently a commentator for ABC Sports. In 1993 took over a troubled Auburn Tigers’ program. The Tigers were on two years probation and were fighting to keep the program together. In that first season, Terry’s Tigers went undefeated. They were unable to advance to a bowl game because of NCAA probation. When Terry took the job at Auburn, he and his dad became the first father-son combo to be coaching two of the nation’s most prominent teams in college football. Jeff, who is the youngest Bowden son, is the offensive coordinator at Florida State and has worked for his father for eight seasons. Prior to joining the Seminoles staff, Jeff was the wide receivers coach at Southern Mississippi. Jeff has also been a head coach at Samford University.
There are three Bowden children who are not involved in sports. Robyn Bowden Hines is the wife of Clemson’s defensive backs coach Jack Hines. Robyn is the mother of two and is a teacher at Central elementary, in Central, S.C. Steve Bowden, who went to seminary and earned his Ph.D. in philosophy, is the father of five and is currently a financial planner. Then there is Ginger Bowden Madden, who is the youngest Bowden. She is a mother of three and works as an attorney.
We all know and love the athletic, football side of the Bowden family, but what do we really know about the Bowden family outside of football.
Over the years, family vacations have lost their edge because people’s agendas are getting put above the importance of family. You cannot say that about the Bowden family vacations. No matter how busy or how far apart the members of the Bowden clan live from each other, each year they all manage to make it back and celebrate together the importance of family. Clemson football’s first lady, Linda Bowden had this to say about the Bowden family, “The Bowden family is one I would call an old fashioned family.”
For more than 40 years, the Bowdens, including all six children and 21 grandchildren, have engaged in a tradition of taking a family vacation. The vacation usually takes place the last week of June and lasts until around the Fourth of July.
“In the era when professions tie us and families are drifting apart, it is nice to have an event like this,” said Terry.
Bobby and Ann own two condos in Panama City Beach, FL and this is where the annual Bowden family vacation is held. When the Bowden kids were growing up, two condos were enough. But now that the kids are grown and have children of their own, they have had to stretch the condo occupancy to five.
Granddaddy Bobby Bowden says, “the vacations have just gotten larger every year because we’ve done it all of our lives. Ann and I have always gone to Panama City since we were children just like all people in Birmingham would go to Panama City. Then you have your children and as they grow up they go over there every summer. Now their families go and their children go. Watching the grandchildren playing on the beach like Tommy and Terry used to do. That’s just a lot of fun watching them grow up and being together.”
The Bowden family vacation is one of relaxation, and from year to year the activities remain consistent. “We do the same thing every year,” Tommy said. “It’ s not real different. We play golf, we go to the beach, we eat and we sleep.” For the Bowden men, golf is their way of unleashing all of the past year’s stress and it is a way of competing for the rest of the year’s bragging rights. The Bowden men usually wake up around 7 or 7:30 AM and head to the golf course. Tommy, Terry and Jeff call it quits around noon, but Bobby and Steve will golf all day, if allowed.
For the Bowden women, things are not quite that easy. “The men do their thing and the women work in the kitchen and clean-up, it is still like we all know our roles,” Linda said. “The men spend a lot of time talking football.” Of course the women head to the mall on several occasions, but mostly they enjoy the beach and watching the kids play together, so they can savor the memories for the future. The Bowden grandchildren enjoy the beach and each other’s company. They know that this is the only time of year where they all get to visit with all of their cousins at one time.
The main activities of the vacation each year are, of course going to the beach, but the grandkids enjoy going to Miracle Strip amusement park, which has been in existence since Tommy was a youngster. The joke throughout the family is that Tommy enjoys the park more than the grandchildren. At the park, Tommy takes time out to sign autographs and takes pictures with fans. Like his father, Tommy is the social butterfly of all of the Bowden children.
Another activity that the Bowden’s do on vacation is having family dinner together each night. The dinners are big, fun events and are probably the most enjoyable events shared by everyone on the vacation. Each night one family is responsible for the meal, dessert and clean-up of the dinner. Bobby recalled one of the first times Linda was responsible for dinner, “Linda on one of the first times she went down there, cooked her meal. She cooked a perfect meal, probably spaghetti and meatballs and it was delicious. Then for dessert she was trying to make everybody happy, especially granddaddy, so she served chocolate fudge cakes with ice cream. I got to asking her where the fudge sauce was and she started crying. She had tried so hard to do it right and had made my favorite dessert and I had to ask the stupid question of where the sauce was and that hurt her feelings and she started crying. Whoever does the meal catches heat because everybody kids.” In response Linda said, “The Bowden family is a family of jokesters. If you can’t take a joke, you better run or stay at home.”
At dinner, the Bowden’s love to tell stories, like the time in high school when Tommy and Terry where on the same undefeated team. Tommy was the star running back and corner back, and Terry was a fullback who also played strong safety. The only game they lost that season, the score was decided by a score of 7-6. Tommy was covering the receiver that caught the winning touchdown, and it just so happens that the guy only had one arm. The Bowden sense of humor is crude and ruthless, and they all know, “if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”
Even though the Bowden men golf just about every day of the vacation, only a couple can play the entire day. But there is one exception, the one day of the year when the Bowden men golf 36 holes and all of them fight until the end for the “Tyndall Swindle” trophy. This golf event is probably the most cherished by all of the Bowden men, especially Bobby. “One day of the year we go play golf at Tyndall Air Force Base golf course,” Bobby said. “It is a great golf course with no houses anywhere around-just out in the thickets. Every year we pick out a day during our vacation to go out there. Me and Tommy will play Terry and Steve, and Jeffrey will play the first 18 holes with us and then the other 18 with them and we see who wins. We call it the Tyndall Swindle because we all cheat. That’s kind of the highlight for us, we really have a great day doing that.”
The story behind the “Tyndall Swindle” is that one year all the guys were out playing a round of golf and Bobby and Tommy were losing. How ironic, since neither of the two like to lose. Somehow they convinced the other team to play another 18 holes. The second game came down to the wire, but Bobby sank the final putt to give he and Tommy the win in what will forever be called the “Tyndall Swindle.” When ask if that game of golf was fair, Tommy had this to say about the “Tyndall Swindle,” “It is whatever you conscience allows, there is a lot of cheating going on in that game.”
The thing that makes the Bowden family vacation so special is the fact that two parents, six children, along with their spouses and children, are still able to meet once a year in the same place for an extended period of time. With all of the joking, crying, generic football talk, and dinners together, the Bowdens prove without a doubt that they are a close-knit family. The love that they have for one another is admirable.
“The fact that we get everybody together and I get a chance to be with all the boys,” Bobby said. “I have four sons and a son-in-law, just getting to be with them and play golf with them and then having all the 21 grandchildren there playing with each other like brothers and sisters. I think that’s the big thing.”
No doubt that the family is an institution made up of people who care for one another, but you just do not see institutions like the Bowden’s anymore. The Bowden family’s firm foundation can be attributed to their father’s faith in God. He and his wife’s Christian beliefs, which they incorporated in rearing their children, have carved and fashioned their children and grandchildren’s lives. For this we applaud them and their time honored tradition of the Bowden family vacation.
Msiba Dalton is a senior from Waynesville, NC and is student assistant in the Clemson sports information office.
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