Nov. 2, 2000
By Eddie Pells
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – If the idea of a father coaching against his
seems awkward, consider the scene in a handful of living rooms scattered
the South last winter.
Walking out the front door after making his pitch would be Florida
chief recruiter, Bobby Bowden. Walking in would be his son, Tommy Bowden of
So, how does a 70-year-old grandpa with only a handful of years left in
coaching career convince a recruit that he, not Tommy, has the player’s best
long-term interests in mind?
“I always say, `Ask Terry,”‘ Bobby Bowden said, referring to another
who left Auburn unceremoniously two seasons ago. “Terry used to say he’d be
around longer than me, and where’s he right now?”
Bowden says that kind of tongue-in-cheek, but there’s some truth there,
an even deeper reality beyond that. The recruiting game is almost always
personal, and now it’s a high-stakes family affair between Clemson and
That’s especially true now that No. 10 Clemson (8-1, 6-1) has emerged
main threat to No. 4 Florida State (8-1, 6-0) in the Atlantic Coast
The recruiting trail gives way to the football field Saturday, when
and son meet again, in Bowden Bowl II.
“I don’t think you ever really get used to it,” Tommy Bowden said.
just not a normal occurrence”
Ann Bowden will be will be sitting in the stands as her husband and son
square off in just the second father-son coaching matchup in major college
In the first meeting last year, there was history on the line. In
to the first-of-its-kind matchup, Bobby Bowden was trying to become just the
fifth Division I-A coach to reach 300 victories.
This time, it’s the future at stake.
Because, as much as the share of the ACC title that’s essentially
this game, this is a chance for Clemson to truly re-enter the landscape of
college football powerhouses. It’s a land the Tigers helped define decades
only to see the program ravaged by years of scandal and struggle.
“I know what’s on the line for us,” Tommy Bowden said. “But there are
other things that need to be accomplished before that.”
Still, it’s a testament to Tommy that he has taken this program so far
such a short time.
Were it not for a spectacular catch by Georgia Tech’s Kerry Watkins
week in the waning moments, the Tigers would come here undefeated and this
would truly be a national-title playoff game.
Either way, Clemson would have been considered a major underdog – the
Seminoles are 18 1/2-point favorites – simply because of the program Bobby
has built over the span of 25 years.
In an era where storied programs fall and rise and fall again – see
and Oklahoma this year – FSU maintains its high status. The Seminoles have
at least a share of the ACC title every year since they entered in 1992.
They have yet to lose a conference home game, an impressive feat no
what the critics say about the strength of the conference.
These are daunting facts for anyone who thinks about knocking off the
Seminoles. And the foundation is built not as much on Bobby Bowden’s Xs and
but on his power of personality, a trait that hits home in the living rooms
those recruits, then pays off on campus, and on the scoreboard.
“If you’re going to beat them, you have to play a lot of people,” said
Georgia Tech’s George O’Leary, the last coach thought to be the big threat
Bowden and FSU. “You have to get your depth to where you can play people and
not have a major drop-off between the first and second teams. Because that’s
what you’re really facing when you play Florida State.”
The overriding feeling is that Tommy Bowden hasn’t reached that point
but he’s getting close.
If he does knock off Florida State, there’s some sentiment, especially
those who know these coaches best, that the end might follow shortly for
“My mother is 100 percent Florida State,” Terry Bowden said. “It’s not
the boy’s time to beat the old man. My parents are smart enough to know that
people will quickly want to put you out to pasture when you lose one or two