CLEMSON – A week after the fact and despite what Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden said Monday in his press conference, Mike O'Cain still has no idea why he was fired as offensive coordinator.
"No, other than he just wanted to make a change," O'Cain said when asked Tuesday afternoon if Bowden gave him specifics on why he was fired last week. "Not really. You sit down and try to get in his shoes or his head and I really don't know. I'm not going to try and speculate. … We've basically been doing the same things for the four years that I've been here, whether it was myself or Brad (Scott). Maybe he just felt like he needed to get some new blood in here offensively."
When Bowden walked into O'Cain's office last Monday and told him in a conversation that lasted about a minutes, O'Cain said the news that he was fired was a shock.
"Anytime something like this happens, you're hurt and you're disappointed and probably a little bit scared about what the future holds and all those kind of emotions you go through," O'Cain said. "I really love this university. I've had four really good years here even though the last one was a struggle from a football standpoint. … I leave here with very fond memories and regrets that we weren't better last year. But everybody in that room worked their tails off to try and make it better. And for whatever reason it just didn't work. Our guys were working hard and playing hard but we weren't just playing good."
He later added, "It is kind of a slap in your face anytime anything like this happens to anybody."
There has been speculation that one of the reasons all three coaches were let go was because of the lack of success each one of them had in recruiting. O'Cain said he could see how that might have played a role.
"It could have been the major reason, I don't know," he said. "If you just look at the pure numbers of guys that I've signed, you wouldn't see very many for whatever reason. It could have been (the reason). One thing that Tommy has said is that he evaluates us on two things: the way you coach and the way you recruit."
But as stunned as he was at his own firing, he was even more so at the termination of defensive coordinator John Lovett.
"I was surprised I'd been fired," O'Cain said. "But just from a guy on the other side of the ball, I thought (the defense) played very, very well. Again, you can only speculate. For whatever reason, and I don't know this and I don't know that John does, but (Bowden) just felt like he needed to do something differently. But yes, I was very, very surprised. I was more surprised at John than me. You can justify it with (me) the way we played offensively. As hard as it is to say and you have to look yourself in the mirror, I can't sit here and tell you we played good on offense. But I thought that after the Virginia game, defensively, we played pretty doggone good."
There isn't the bitterness that most would expect from someone that had just had their job taken away. O'Cain isn't that way. Talking to him Tuesday seemed no different than talking about the defense of Maryland.
Apparently, though, there's more than one person within the football program unhappy with what has unfolded within the last week.
"He's disappointed and questions it just like a lot of people have," O'Cain said of quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. "But he's just got to stay strong and positive. … And it hurts because you do get close to the young man. He still doesn't understand why. He said it wasn't your fault. (I replied) it was and it wasn't. And I said all those interceptions and incomplete passes weren't your fault either, but you live with it."
What seems to bother O'Cain the most about all this is that he was never in control of the offense despite his title. It wasn't his offense. It wasn't only his play calling.
And now that Bowden said he would consider completely giving up control of the offense, O'Cain ponders what might have been.
"I'd be lying if I said that question never entered my mind," O'Cain said. "But at the same time, I knew what I had when I took it. I could have easily said no. So, you live with the consequences. …
"This offense is the same offense that's been here since I've got here – with some tweaking," he said. "Mine is probably the reverse of what this is. This is more one-back with a mixture of two-back, where mine would more of a two-back. …
"So it was Tommy, Brad and I discussing what we wanted to do between series. … It always went through Tommy and he very, very rarely would say no I don't want to do that."
O'Cain said he's going to take his time in looking for a job. He wants to see what opens up and that he would even consider moving west or north if the right job was available.
Maybe this time if he brings in a top-flight quarterback that he'll get to see him finish his career. This marks the third time he won't get to see the quarterback he brought to a school finish out his career.
O'Cain brought in Phillip Rivers to N.C. State and then was fired. He brought in Darian Durant to North Carolina and left to go to Clemson, where he brought in Whitehurst.
"I've left some other people in pretty good shape," he said. "But you move on."
Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips said no formal interviews concerning the football coaching jobs have taken place. He also added that he did not tell Bowden to make a change on the coaching staff like the folks at Mississippi did to former coach David Cutcliffe, who refused and was promptly fired.
Phillips said in order to get the best assistants out there, Clemson won't be cheap in its offers to the new coaches and that he would consider giving multi-year contracts, which very few schools do.
Mike O'Cain Speaks Out
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