Q&A With Bowl Opponent Tommy Bowden

Clemson head football coach Tommy Bowden discusses his football team, the Auburn Tigers and his time as an assistant coach at Auburn.

Clemson, S.C.--Tommy Bowden, who is wrapping up his ninth year as head football coach of the Clemson Tigers, will lead his team into the New Year's Eve matchup vs. Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Bowden, who was an assistant coach for three different Auburn head coaches, is very familiar with the AU football. He coached at Auburn under Doug Barfield in 1980 and for Pat Dye from 1990-1992. He remained a part of the AU staff when his brother, Terry, took over in 1993 and was at AU through the 1996 season.

Bowden moved to New Orleans in 1997 where he posted a 7-4 record in his first season as head coach of Tulane. The following year The Green Wave finished 11-0 and he left for Clemson where he has posted a record of 69-41. Bowden has also been an assistant coach at FSU, Duke, Alabama and Kentucky.

This isn't the first time you and Tommy Tuberville have cross paths is it?

"We both interviewed at Ole Miss (for the head coaching job prior to the 1995 season). He went to Ole Miss and I went to Tulane and we played each other. We have been here (at their current positions) the same amount of time. We are both named Tommy, coach the Tigers and we both have good looking wives."

Do you still have any ties to Auburn?

"Oh, yeah. I have a lot of friends there. A lot of our church friends are there and we still go back and meet with them. A lot of those people come to our games."

Tommy Bowden took over as head coach at Clemson for the 1999 season.

When you returned to Auburn the second time, you joined the staff as Auburn was preparing to play a bowl game in Atlanta, much like what is happening now with Tuberville bringing in a new offensive coordinator (Tony Franklin) during bowl practice. What do you remember about that?

"In 1990 after I went to Auburn, I came to Atlanta and spent three or four days watching them practice. I sat in the press box and didn't do anything with offensive input."

Do you remember that game?

"Who did we play? It was Indiana, wasn't it. Oh man, I remember there was a lot of fog. Stan White ran a naked boot (for a touchdown). That was a great call by Pat Sullivan."

Do you expect Tony Franklin will basically be a spectator like you were?

"If you believe Tommy (Tuberville) he is going to do very little...if you can believe him...(laugh)."

Auburn is joining other teams in going to a spread offense. Why is that becoming such a popular offense at the college level?

"It is difficult to defend. The field is 53 yards wide. The pros have hash marks in the middle and in college you have true hash marks, a boundary and a wide side to the field. If you are in the "I" formation on the left hash, you really can't attack that outside third of the field. You just can't hardly get out there unless you run the option so the spread offense makes you defend the whole 53 yards of the field.

"Instead of coming down the line and pitching the option like you used to, you throw the little bubble screen out there. It is such a high percentage pass, 90 to 95 percent, and that puts stress on the defense. You have to tackle in the open field. If you are not good tacklers, you are probably not going to be successful against the spread offense. That makes you possibly put more defensive backs on the field. A big linebacker, 240 pounds, you put him out there in space and he is not nearly as productive as he is against the old "I" formation on a hash.

"Then you throw in the (Tim) Tebow element or a Woody Dantzler, who we had at Clemson, or a Shaun King, who we had at Tulane. That is another element because a quarterback in a one-back is the same now as an "I" formation with your quarterback a runner and your other back a lead blocker. It is an "I" formation, but it is not--it is a one-back. Then you motion the guy and it is a no-back, but it is the same as a one-back (with a QB who can run). There is so much flexibility with those type of offenses it makes it difficult to defend."

How good is this year's Clemson team compared to the others you have coached there?

"I think we are the most talented that we have been. We are still behind the curve. The facilities Auburn is talking about redoing when they built them in '87, we are fixing to get them so (Auburn) has been recruiting for 20 years in those facilities. We are fixing to have that opportunity to recruit in those facilities in about another year so the talent we have got right now is the best it has been, but again it is relative to where we were. It is getting up to the level of some of these teams we are playing."

During you time at Auburn, what stood out to you?

"I really enjoyed the people there and the passion for the game. You like to coach at a place where what you do is important and it is important at Auburn. They have got great passion, a great fan base and great facilities. I like a Bible Belt, small town, conservative, Christian-type atmosphere and that is what it is."

How much is Clemson like Auburn?

"They are similar, very similar. There is more water at Clemson, but the fans and the excitement are very similar. The way the fans with their campers and trailers start coming into town for the games on Thursdays and Fridays is very similar. The fans at both schools travel and go to the bowls and have a lot of passion and commitment. That is all very, very similar."

Do you have ill feelings toward Auburn after the relationship going sour with your brother Terry and AU when he was head coach there?

"You have to understand the profession and I am very fortunate to have a father in the profession. It is very volatile. If you can't take public criticism, you need to stay away from the profession. If you are looking at security, don't get into the profession."

How much do you recruit head to head against Auburn?

"Some when we come into Georgia and a little bit in South Carolina and some when we recruit some guys they are recruiting in Alabama. I don't think they are recruiting much in South Carolina this year. We will recruit a little bit against each other in Georgia."

Is there anything that stands out to you about this year's Auburn team?

"We are very similar to what what they do offensively and defensively. We both try to be very solid in the kicking game. Other than that the similarities are Tigers, orange and wives."

Anything else about your coaching days at Auburn that stands out?

"Starting out 20-0 going undefeated Terry's (Bowden) first year i something that doesn't happen often. I don't think happens very often at all. I know Tommy (Tuberville) had 13 in one season. That would be what stood out."

Was that unbeaten 1993 Auburn team fun to coach?

"We had a lot of good players and we were winning and it was your brother as head coach so it was blood. That made it special."

From a coach's perspective, was that 1993 team a group that played very close to its potential?

"To be undefeated, that is probably what you have to do and you also have to be very fortunate with injuries."

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