AUDIO VERSION OF FULL INTERVEW: link
Given the struggles of the first part of your final season, did you think at any point before Oct. 13, 2008 your job was truly in jeopardy?
Bowden: No. I really didn't. Simply because I just signed a seven-year contract. We were married together. I was awfully disappointed. When you look at a program Roy, at a place like Clemson, you need to get to the championship game. At a place like Clemson when you don't do that, you could go at any minute. That's the standard and it should be the standard. I think one of President Barker's goals was to win a National Championship in 10 years. That was my 10th year and obviously we weren't going to win a National Championship. So I did know there was a good chance something could happen. I didn't read the newspaper or internet or any of that but [Sports Information Director] Tim Bourret did a great job of keeping me aware of the pulse of the fans.
And I wasn't naive. I had a father in the profession and a brother in the profession and coaching peers. I wasn't naive.
At a place like Clemson you are asked to do several things. If there's 10 things you want done - No. 1: don't go on NCAA probation. Run a clean program. I want you to graduate your players. Don't let season ticket sales drop. Keep attendance up. I want you to beat South Carolina. I want you to have winning seasons. I want you to go to bowl games. I want you to win championships. I did nine of them. I didn't do 10. I couldn't get to 10. 10 is why I went there. So I could surely understand the administration's feelings about me when the 10th year we weren't going to there.
"When you look at a program, Roy, at a place like Clemson you need to get to the championship game. At a place like Clemson when you don't do that, you could go at any minute. That's the standard and it should be the standard." (Roy Philpott)
Going back to your last game against Wake Forest that was obviously a stressful time- can you recall what that was like and what it was like on your final day? And the question everybody wants to know is - did you actually resign or were you forced out on that final day at Clemson?
Bowden: Well you know, call it "resigned," call it "left" call it "fired." Call it whatever you want. You know, when Terry Don came in to see me that morning I sure didn't go down to his office knock on his door and say I want to resign. I was in my office getting ready for the staff meeting and he came in and said he was interested in making a change at the end of the year if I didn't either go to the championship game or win a championship. It was one of the two. And it was obviously going to be tough to do that.
The adminstration was losing confidence (in me). Six months earlier I signed a seven-year contract and I was the guy. We were joined at the hip. And forever be married. At least for a couple of years. But I could surely understand the disappointment. And as we talked, it looked like the best thing to do ... I was perceived as the obstacle, which I was. The reason Clemson wasn't where we needed to be was because of me. I was the obstacle in the road. Obviously they had lost confidence in me so it looked like the best thing for me to for Clemson to make progress was for me to step aside.
Like I said, I surely didn't initiate the conversation, but as we talked, that looked like the best thing to do. Whether you want to say fired, resigned, quit, whatever - I don't care about the semantics of it. I think they are happy ... it looked like they were pretty pleased I stepped aside and looked like it was the best thing for all parties. I would think they would be pretty satisfied with how things ended up. I'll go on and live another day.
|"The reason Clemson wasn't where we needed to be was because of me. I was the obstacle in the road. Obviously they had lost confidence in me so it looked like the best thing for me to for Clemson to make progress was for me to step aside."|
Bowden: I recommended it in our conversations. I do remember that. He probably does. I did recommend it.
Obviously that was based off your years of working with Dabo and thinking that he could be the one that could right the ship sooner than anybody else?
Bowden: Yeah I thought he'd be a head coach. I didn't know when. I didn't know how long it would take him. But I thought he had the intangibles to be a head coach. I didn't know if it was at that time or not but I thought he had the capability. My recommendation was to hire him at that time. I said, 'hey, Dabo would be a great hire.'
We were ninth in the nation in recruiting at that time and we had just finished second in the nation in recruiting (the year before). So I said, 'hey, let's keep this recruiting going.'
When you walk into Death Valley the next week and you get booed by 80,000 people that does a lot to recruiting and we were sitting there at ninth in the nation. I could eliminate a whole bunch of weeks of negative recruiting against Clemson by removing myself from the equation. And I thought Clemson could go on and finalize this ninth in the nation recruiting class after the second ranked recruiting class. So let's make this transition as smooth as possible for Clemson.
The obstacle was me. Let me remove myself since you are knocking on my door making this suggestion. I removed myself and let y'all carry on. I thought that was the best thing for Clemson to be successful for me to move on.
Yes, I did recommend him.
I thought that was the smoothest, quickest transition for Clemson to be successful the remaining six games.
I remember talking with Dabo Swinney after your press conference later that day and he told me it was a bittersweet day for him and I knew it was because of how much you meant to him and his career. Tell me what it was like for you, when you walked out of the McFadden Auditorium after your final press conference. Was it a sense of relief that you were no longer the head coach at Clemson?
Bowden: Not really Roy. That's the thing - don't get into the coaching profession if you can't take public criticism and that it's a very volatile profession and you could go any minute. Don't get in it. I had a father in it. I had a brother in it who went through something similar at Auburn. My father who was kind of going through it at Florida State. I had witnessed other peers and coaches go through it.
"That's the thing - don't get into the coaching profession if you can't take public criticism and that it's a very volatile profession and you could go any minute. Don't get in it. I had a father in it. I had a brother in it who went through something similar at Auburn." (Roy Philpott)
The profession has a lot of pressure. Go ask Urban Meyer if there's physical pressure. Go ask Jim Tressel if there's pressure to make wise decisions. And the guy at Oregon. And the basketball coach at Tennessee and Southern Cal and at North Carolina. There's pressure to make good decisions and pressure physically. I didn't leave to eliminate pressure. That's why you get into it. I didn't say 'I feel good now.'
It's public embarrassment and humiliation to leave like that. But it's a 24 hour story. Hire him and Clemson survives and moves on and life goes on.
What advice would have for Dabo Swinney right now?
Bowden: Hey I don't have a job so how can I give him advice? If he takes my advice he'll end up like me (laughing). Roy you know me pretty good and the people up there ... my Christian faith is pretty strong. I know that's a negative connotation to some people. 'Aw that Christian stuff here we go again.' But I draw a lot of strength from that. And the strength I got from that comes from praying for wisdom. I didn't listen to the fans or listen to the media. I was fortunate to have an administration that didn't force me to make decisions. And I think they saw I could make decisions.
My only advice would be to him would be to do what he thinks is right. I don't know why he makes decisions. I don't know if the decisions he's made - he had to make them. I just know about my experiences up there and the decisions I made there, I made. I felt like I knew what I was doing and it wasn't like we were very far away.
I would recommend this (laughing) - beat South Carolina. I'd say beat them or at least play them closer - one or the other.
Could you get back into coaching at some point? Maybe you could even go back and work for your brother Terry? Is that a possibility?
Bowden: Let's not get carried away with that working for your brother stuff. (laughing) I've done that. I could, Roy. Like I said, whatever opportunity comes open I will surely evaluate it, pray about it and make a decision. You just don't know. In my heart of hearts, I feel comfortable doing what I'm doing now but that could change. Whatever is out there I'll evaluate and pursue it full speed. When you get into coaching you have to do it with both feet running.
"So he's 81 years old playing 36 holes a day. I think he's done it the last six days in a row. He's doing really good." (Roy Philpott)
Bowden: Well yeah, but I'm not sure how much they are talking to the press or how that's going to work. I will sit in and listen to the interviews and I may ask a question or two. There are some of the guys there I don't know. The guy at Virginia I don't know. The guy at Maryland I don't know. But I'll sit in on interviews with Dabo and I may ask a question or two (laughing).
How is your dad doing these days? Is he enjoying retirement?
Bowden: He's doing good. Playing golf and speaking. His health is good. He'll play a lot of golf - he plays 36 holes a day. We'll play and I will have to take my car because I'll only play 18 holes. So he's 81 years old playing 36 holes a day. I think he's done it the last six days in a row. He's doing really good.
As you look back on your time at Clemson and you reflect - what does all of it mean to you now?
Bowden: I have two children that graduated from Clemson so it will always be a part of my life and my family. I had a great nine and a half years there. The only disappointment was, gosh, if we could have just made one of those plays. My last three years before the last year we were one point away. If one of those guys makes one of those plays I'd probably still be coaching there. If I could have survived that one bad year we would have made it. I had a heckuva a positive experience. Some of the fans probably wouldn't say that because we didn't get to the championship game.
But I have very very fond memories of the place and my children do and my wife does. We lived in a great house near a great university. I always felt like it was an SEC environment. I had always wanted to coach in the SEC or at Clemson or North Carolina. Those were kind of main jobs I wanted. There were eight I had pegged.
I just wish being a competitor and an ex-athlete and being a coach and being so close ... I wish I could have got to the dad-gum championship game. I wish I could have gotten there once. I didn't have to get there every year- but just once.
Those would be my memories.