Here to Stay

CLEMSON – As Linda Bowden walked toward her husband's office with their pet boxer on a leash Tuesday afternoon, she wasn't the least bit shy in showing her pleasure in that she and her husband, Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden, were staying in Upstate of South Carolina after all.

When told that she must be happy her husband had just agreed in principal to a new contract, raise and extension that could keep him at Clemson through 2014, instead of going to Arkansas, there was no hesitation on her part.

"Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!" she cheered.

And why shouldn't she be happy?

Bowden and Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips agreed to a raise Tuesday morning that, if all the bonuses are reached, could max out at $2.2 million per season. That's roughly $1 million raise from the $1.2 he made this past season.

"We believed we needed to be in the upper third of our league with how we compensated our coach because that's the type of program we have," Phillips said. "We're not a lower level program."

However, that's if all the incentives are met.

His base salary is expected to be in the $1.6 million range, with the initial year of the buyout of close to $4 million. The exact numbers of the contract won't be released for at least another week at the earliest.

"In looking at our situation and what's happening in the market, as well as looking at what's happening in football in general, we added four years to the contract to make it a seven-year contract," Phillips said. "We believe that is necessary in the stability we need to move and get us to where we win the championship. We know that that's our expectation. … This gives Clemson University the best opportunity to achieve our goals and expectations.

"There's very strong performance incentives associated with the contract. As we hit these thresholds that will get us to the next level that we intend and expect to be, that will be a significant part of the package. I will say that this will move him up in the upper third of the Atlantic Coast Conference. For the past several years he's been in the lower half of the conference with the regard to compensation. We believe it's a fair contract in relative to our competitors. …

"Clemson University's best opportunity to get where we want to the quickest is to have Coach Bowden as our head football coach and have stability on our staff. That's our best opportunity."

The contract has to be approved by the school's Trustee Compensation Committee before Bowden can sign it. Nonetheless, it's all but a done deal and for better or for worse, the Tigers have their man.

"Clemson is a very special place for me and my family," Bowden said. "Both of my children graduated from here and I fully intended when I came here nine years ago to make this be our last stop.

"I do believe with what's been accomplished the last three years, the stability of the program, the elevation of the talent, what we have returning, what we have redshirted, and the recruiting process right now with what we have committed that we can achieve the goals of a championship. I wish I could sit here and tell you when. I don't know when, but I do know it's possible and that it will happen."

This ends a very tumultuous 24 hours for Bowden and Phillips, as well as for Arkansas and athletics director Jeff Long, who is a long-time friend of Bowden's.

The school's Razorback Foundation, which is in charge of awarding salary for the school's coaches, was basically on standby for 12 hours. All they were waiting on was word from Bowden that he was going to take the job.

Bowden denied that a formal offer took place, but did admit that dollars and number of years were discussed.

Late Monday night, it appeared that Bowden was headed to Fayetteville, Ark. A very high ranking Clemson administrator called the situation "serious."

But Phillips and Clemson finally yielded on their no negotiation policy Tuesday morning and Bowden agreed to a new deal with the school.

"Anytime you get into a negotiation, you get you get into a lot of offers, counter offers, counter offers, counter-counter offers," Phillips said. "That's just part of negotiation. … You just don't walk in and everybody agrees about the same thing at the same time."

One of the major sticking points between the two sides was that Bowden wanted three-year guarantees for all his assistant coaches. Clemson wasn't about to offer that. However, Phillips said all the assistants should have new contracts before the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Auburn on New Year's Eve.

"As we speak, we're working on where they are in the market and be fair competitively with their financial package, as well their contractual package," he said.

The buyout was also a sticking point.

Initially, Phillips offered a buyout that would be in the $500,000 range. But that was quickly bumped up to $2.5 million during the negotiation. It appears that number is going to be much higher now and very similar to what Bowden agreed to when he signed his new contract following the 2003 season.

"What we did with the buyout is we looked particularly with the Atlantic Coast Conference with the coaches that are in the upper five (pay wise)," Phillips said. "We looked to see how they handled their buyout provisions and we did some modeling after coaches that we compete against and looked at the market there."

It was a slight surprise that Phillips revealed that the contract extends seven years and not five. But Phillips said there was a very good reason for this.

"We're in the best position probably in a long, long time to be able to make that move (toward a championship) and go to the upper level," he said. "And we don't need that distraction of what recruits may be saying or what our fans and supporters may be saying.

"They deserve for us to bring home a championship within a reasonable timeframe. But certainly you're not going to win it every year. They are tremendous fans and have great fervor, so we understand those expectations. … If we didn't care about eventually knocking through the door and being a champion, we'd just left that (West) end zone the way it was."

Phillips admitted that without the presence of Arkansas that the contract would not have been done this quickly. He said there was a sense of urgency.

"It certainly ruins a good trip (to New York)," he said. "But once the conjecture gets out there, we've got to deal with it. I don't have enough storage space on my Blackberry. … I probably wasn't in as big a rush as I was."

Two junior players, running back James Davis and safety Michael Hamlin, who are major keys to the Tigers trying to reach their championship goals, each stated that had Bowden left, there was a good chance they would have left early for the NFL.

Now, Davis said he's returning and Hamlin said he was "98 percent" sure he's coming back.

However, Davis said he never really thought Bowden would skip town.

"There was no way he was going to go with (Arkansas) losing (star running back Darren) McFadden and seeing what type of players are returning here," Davis said. "If he would have left, a new coach would have been coming in with a lot of talent and probably been looked at as a good coach after he won, even if he wasn't."

The reason is the contract is saddled with incentives is because Bowden has yet to win a division or conference title. If he were to win the ACC title, a huge chunk would be added to his contract.

Basically, improve and he gets paid. Stay the same and he doesn't.

"We believe that we're on the cusp of getting our program to the level that we want it and expect it to be," Phillips said. "We know that we're close and we know that is a source of frustration for people that when you're so close and you just hadn't got there."

With everything seemingly at a close, Phillips assured everyone that there are no hard feelings, even with Arkansas, which certainly made this situation much more stressful and potentially cost Clemson millions of dollars more than it had expected.

"I know this, I'm going to continue my contributions to the (Razorback) Foundation because I believe in (Long)," he said. "I'm not going to cut back." Top Stories