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Nov 06, 2018

Clemson Football’s Mama Bear


Note: The following appears in the Louisville gameday football program

Of the scores of current employees in the Clemson football office, Beth Douglas discovered she was hired in the most unusual way.

“I interviewed for the administrative assistant position under Tommy Bowden in late July 2001 and had not heard yet if I had gotten the job. I went to the Ladies Clinic, and Brad Scott was introducing some of the people who worked in the football department.

“All of a sudden, there was a spotlight on me and coach Scott said, ‘And we have a new administrative assistant to coach Bowden, and it is Beth Douglas! We are pleased to have Beth with us today!’

“No one had called me yet to tell me I had the job. Coach Scott thought Andy Johnston had already called me.”

And so began “Ms. Beth’s” career in the Clemson football office.

She had to deal with that “announcement” on the fly, so to speak, and she has been dealing with tasks thrown her way with great aplomb ever since.

Her predecessor left unexpectedly, and there were no notes or manual to follow. She had to “learn on the fly,” as she started just three days before fall camp in 2001.

“I had never worked in athletics, but grew up a Clemson fan in Greenwood. So I knew about the history of the program. I went to a lot of games with my parents. One of the first things I did was take the media guide home to study up on the players and coaches.”

One of her most memorable games as a kid was the 1963 Clemson vs. Georgia contest. There was a hailstorm during halftime that delayed the second half, because it turned the field into a skating rink.

“I got separated from my parents and was lost for a while. I remember being under the stands, and the hail was so loud that you couldn’t hear the person next to you. But I finally found my parents.”

She and her husband, Jim (Clemson ‘71), were married in 1970, and they have two children, Kimberly, a Clemson graduate, and Jimbo, who raises puppies. The family moved to Kentucky for an eight-year period due to Jim’s employment, but they returned to Clemson in 2001.

When she interviewed for the position with Bowden, it did not go well at first.

“He said he was looking for a ‘Bulldog’ in that position. I stood up and shook his hand and said ‘thank you very much, but that is not my approach’.”

Bowden asked her to sit back down, and they had a further discussion. They reached a mutual understanding by the end of the interview, but Bowden did not offer her the job. A few days later, she learned she had gotten it in front of 1,100 people.

Her approach to the position has evolved over the years to include being a “Bulldog” when she has to.

“She protects me like a ‘mama bear’,” said head coach Dabo Swinney.

I can tell you from personal experience that she is among the best at her profession. She and I coordinated hundreds of media interviews for Bowden and Swinney, and she was always on top of that schedule, even when I threw her some late curveballs when a media person appeared unannounced.

“I like to believe I am an organized person, but Ms. Beth is organized to the nth degree,” added Swinney.

When Swinney took over as interim head coach on Oct. 13, 2008, he was a bit naive to the daily demands of the high-profile job.

“Dabo did not feel comfortable working from coach Bowden’s corner office at the beginning,” she admitted. “I went down to his office to ask him about handling his mail and doing some of the basic correspondence. He said he was used to doing it himself.”

Well, that didn’t last long.

“By the end of that first week, I was taking a bucket of mail home with me and going through it at 1 a.m.,” said Swinney. “I finally figured out I needed help, and I went to Ms. Beth.

“She helped me so much during the transition, because she had been through situations with coach Bowden and knew how to deal with some things that came up. She does an incredible job. She is a rock in my daily life.

“When I look back at the people who have helped our program become successful, Ms. Beth is near the top.”