A little more than a week removed from Clemson’s historic win over Alabama in Tampa, a lot of attention has been given to thanking those who helped build up Clemson football over the years to put the program in this position. As we’ve talked about Danny Ford, Tajh Boyd, C.J. Spiller, and former Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips, I’d like to take a moment to thank former Clemson Head Coach Tommy Bowden for all he did for Clemson.
Now, the most obvious thing people would thank Coach Bowden for was hiring a young assistant coach named Dabo Swinney. But, there is more that Coach Bowden did for the football program and the University. When Bowden took over the Clemson program in 1999, the Tigers were coming off a dismal 3-8 season. Bowden would proceed to lead the team to a 6-6 season with a second place finish in the ACC. The following season the Tigers would finish 9-3 and were ranked 14th and 16th in the Coaches and AP polls, respectively. Over Bowden’s tenure, Clemson went 72-45. Clemson finished bowl eligible ever season under Bowden, only missing one bowl after the University declined an invitation due to the infamous 2004 brawl during the South Carolina game. Clemson would finish the season ranked four times. Bowden had an impressive 7-2 record against rival South Carolina. Bowden was also a big catalyst for Clemson’s improvement in facilities. In February, Clemson will be opening up a multimillion dollar football operations facility. Clemson looks to set the standard for facilities, however when Bowden took over, Clemson had begun to fall behind in the facilities arm race. Bowden oversaw the renovation of the West Endzone and helped get the ball rolling on the building of the indoor practice facility that opened a few years ago.
Tommy Bowden helped build Clemson not just on the field, but off the field as well. Much like Dabo Swinney, Bowden wanted to develop his players not just as athletes, but as men. He was very adamant about academics and players earning their degrees. He is also a man of very strong faith and was very open about religion, which attracted many players to Clemson. It is safe to say he had a huge impact on his players and coaches, including Coach Swinney.
While Bowden may have left Clemson on tough terms and many people grew frustrated with his inability to win championships at Clemson, I think Bowden was an important contributor to Clemson’s success. Bowden built Clemson up to a certain level and a certain standard which gave Coach Swinney more to work with when he took over the reigns during the 2008 season. On Saturday, Coach Swinney said that all former players “have a piece” of this National Championship trophy. In my opinion, and probably in Coach Swinney’s opinion too, Tommy Bowden has a piece of this trophy. So, thank you, Coach Bowden. Thank you for laying the foundation for this championship. Thank you for showing that Clemson can compete. Thank you for all the time and work you put into this program. Clemson definitely wouldn’t be the same without you.