Tommy Bowden is officially out as the head coach as the Clemson Tigers after 10 seasons and a record of 72-45. Early reports said that Bowden was fired, but Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips said that Bowden came to him with the suggestion of the two parties going their separate ways. With Clemson’s 3-3 start, fingers were already starting to point at Bowden for the teams under achieving performances. No matter if Bowden was fired or not, the two sides had to say their goodbyes and move on.
In quotes from several leaders on the team, they suggest that Bowden had begun to lose the locker room and the respect of fellow coaches. The team’s performance against Wake Forest would probably be the best evidence supporting those statements. This season’s failures didn’t lead to his departure though; it’s how the team has crumbled when expectations are high and not delivering an ACC title.
It seems that every time Clemson is in a big game on a big stage, they didn’t show up. Very seldom did they perform up to expectations and prove that they belong in the same discussions with major football programs in the country. Instead, they played well when they weren’t on the radar and lost when everyone bought into the hype. The Tigers have come close to making it to an ACC title game a couple times, but the underlying theme is they can never get the job done. Eight bowl appearances in 10 seasons is nice, but an ACC title is what was expected once Bowden accepted the job.
Sometimes you can attribute falling short to luck or maybe the other team was just better. But in Clemson’s case, they always have the athletes and talent. So why hasn’t that translated onto the football field when it counts? Bowden doesn’t deserve all of the blame, but he is the head coach. It’s his job to get his team prepared for each game. The team’s 34-10 flop against Alabama showed the team’s lack of preparation. You can game plan all day long, but if you’re not ready mentally it is all in vain.
One of the glaring holes in this year’s team is the offense. With so many weapons on the offensive side of the ball, why do the Tigers look so anemic and vanilla on offense? Speed, power and high football intelligence fill the offensive side of the ball. Coming into the season, everyone knew the offensive line would be a work in progress but they aren’t the blame for the offensive woes.
Lost in many of the headlines about Bowden was the fact that offensive coordinator Rob Spence also left the team. Now Dabo Sweeney will take over as the interim head coach. Maybe he can rally the troops and end the season on a positive note. Right now, this team can approach the rest of the season with two different mind-sets. They could come out and think of this as a fresh start; an opportunity to turn things around and make it to a bowl game. Or, they could come out and continue to play uninspired football and get embarrassed a few more times before the season is over.
It would take a miracle, but Clemson could still possibly win the ACC Atlantic division with some help. But before anyone even thinks about that, Clemson has to come out with some passion and play like everyone predicted they could. They have the talent and the athletic ability, now they have to get their minds back on football. If they go 3-9, they can’t blame it on Bowden. Then they’ll have to look in the mirror. It’s gut check time in Clemson.