The Student News Site of Clemson University

The Tiger

The Tiger

The Tiger

Coaching Spotlight: Tommy Bowden

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden was instrumental in setting up the success of the Tigers.

Born on July 10, 1954, young Tommy was destined to be involved in the game of football. His father, Bobby Bowden, was a legendary coach at Florida State University and his brother, Terry Bowden, currently coaches at the University of Akron. 

Bowden went to college at West Virginia where he played wide receiver from 1972-76. After graduating, Bowden worked as an assistant coach at Alabama, Auburn, Eastern Carolina, Duke and even under his father at Florida State. In 1997, he was hired as the head coach of the Tulane Green Wave. 

He served as head coach at Tulane for just two seasons because he was hired by Clemson after the 1998 season. Bowden’s Tulane team had a perfect ’98 season at 12-0. Tulane finished in the top 10, but was left out of consideration for a top bowl because the bowl committee felt Tulane didn’t have a legitimate enough schedule.

That success led to Bowden’s hiring at Clemson. Bowden’s overall record was 72-45, and Clemson participated in a bowl every year except for in 2004 due to a team fight with rival South Carolina. Even with these accomplishments, Clemson fans weren’t happy with him because the Tigers never won an ACC Title. 

Part of his failures to win that elusive ACC championship was because his own father coached division rival Florida State. Every year the Tigers would play the Seminoles, dubbed the Bowden Bowl, and Tommy usually lost to Bobby. That tends to happen when your dad is the all-time NCAA football wins leader and has two national championships under his belt. 

When asked which Bowden Bowl was his favorite he said he enjoyed his very first one. “[It] would probably be the first one [in 1999]. The first one I enjoyed even though we lost. They were No. 1 in the nation, they won the national championship that year, and they had a Heisman Trophy candidate [Chris Weinke won the award a year later]. Pretty much like [2013] when Florida State and Clemson played [the Seminoles routed

Clemson 51-14].”

Favored to win the ACC in 2008, the Tigers struggled out of the gate going 3-3 in the first six games. Bowden was paid $3.5 million to buyout his contract. Dabo Swinney took over as interim head coach and remains there today. 

Bowden actually recruited Swinney to be the wide receivers coach at Clemson because he coached him when Swinney played at Alabama. “Well, you know, I thought he [Dabo] had all the intangibles to be a good head coach. He’s a good people person, excellent recruiter, he does a good job with staff management. Excellent family life. 

So I thought he had all the ingredients. It was just a matter of time before he did it, either at Clemson or somewhere else.” 

Bowden may never have been the greatest coach at Clemson, but he set the Tigers up for the success they have now. He was the one to bring Dabo back to football and make sure he came to Clemson. The program has him to thank for that. 

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Tiger

Your donation will support the student journalists of Clemson University . Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Tiger

Comments (0)

All The Tiger Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *