Every now and then I try to step back and take a long, deep, honest look at myself. I do it to make sure I have my priorities in line. I do it to make sure I am paying more attention to my family than to myself. I don't always like what I see, but it helps me stay honest with myself.
I think it is time we all take a long, deep, honest look at Clemson football.
Take yourself back to the first part of August. Practice had just started, players were receiving accolades from the national media, Clemson nation was looking forward to its first 10-win season since 1990. That is when the first red flag should have come up. It has been 18 years since a Clemson football team had posted double digit wins. 18 years! Three times in that span the program has had a losing record and 14 times the program has finished above .500. Only five times in those 18 years have the Tigers recorded as many as nine wins and three of those were in the last eight years.
From 1978 to 1990 the Clemson football program had six 10 win seasons. The only other double digit win season was in 1948 when Coach Howard's squad went 11-0. Clemson has been playing football for 113 years now and only seven times have they seen 10 or more wins in a single season. When Coach Bowden would compare the Tigers to a Southern Cal or an Ohio State or an Oklahoma or a Texas or a Penn State or a Nebraska or a LSU or insert team here it drove the fan base nuts. Looking honestly at things I now see why. In our minds we think we are among the national elite, but the record, the history just doesn't back that up.
Most of Clemson Nation's expectations for their football team were built up in a 13-year period. Charlie Pell didn't put the program back on the map he put it on the map. Danny Ford then took the window of opportunity and opened it even further. The National Championship in 1981 was a direct result of the foundation laid three years earlier. The 10 win seasons that followed in 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1990 were a result of the foundation from 1981. Note that from 1982 to 1987 there were no 10-win seasons. The program dropped to six wins in 1985, but Coach Ford had enough of the building blocks in place to get the program back to the 10 win plateau in just two seasons.
For 13 seasons Clemson fans drank from the well of prosperity. The history that we have of Clemson football comes from those 13 seasons. Not from Jess Neely, not from Frank Howard, not from John Heisman, not from Josh Cody, but from two men - Charlie Pell and Danny Ford.
Can Clemson get back to where they were during that 13 season run? Absolutely.
Should Clemson expect to be consistently a national football power? Absolutely.
That is what makes the decision that Terry Don Phillips is about to make so important. The opportunity is there to get this right. The decision on the next football coach must be right. The pieces of the puzzle seem to be there. The football facilities now at Clemson and currently under construction are as good as anyone's. The fan base is crazed and hungry for a winner as any in the country. The bits and pieces of pure football talent for the next guy to work with are better than most.
When I take the time to really look at myself and when I sometimes realize I haven't done my best.
That is when the pressure is on to make sure that over the next period of days, weeks and months my decisions have to be spot on. They are just too important for them not be.
The pressure is on for Terry Don Phillips to get this decision right. 18 years of trying to get back on top is just too long. This needs to get done and it needs to get done now.
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