Bowden Axes QB, Then Clemson Axes Bowden

Remember the beginning of the season, when Clemson was ranked in the top 10 and people thought this was the year they broke free in the ACC? Yes, well, about that… No.

Sad Bowden

Clemson’s slide back to the familiar territory of mediocrity started in week 1, when Alabama throttled them in front of a stunned Atlanta crowd, 34-10. Any hopes of a resurgence were dashed over the past two weeks, when the Tigers dropped consecutive contests to godawful Maryland and godawful-until-three-years-ago Wake Forest. That’s apparently all the AD needed to see, as according to WYFF in Greenville, SC, Clemson fired head coach Tommy Bowden today:

Tommy Bowden, midway through his 10th season as the head coach of the Clemson University football team, has been fired.

Assistant head coach Dabo Swinney will take over the team for the remainder of the team’s season.

Why the announcement now? It might have something to do with Bowden’s announcement that he was benching senior starting QB Cullen Harper for freshman Willy Korn; some are suggesting he announced it before telling Harper, which is a very bad idea in the “coach as leader” philosophy. It’s no wonder, then that Harper told ESPN the firing was “what he deserved.” Oof.

Also, while Bowden did go to eight bowls with Clemson and produced a 72-45 record, his career is marked every bit as much by what he didn’t do: win the conference championship. Even in an obviously weak ACC, Bowden’s best conference mark was 6-2 in 2008; the Tigers went either 5-3 or 4-4 in every season thereafter, and the 2008 campaign looks no better. If he did screw over Harper, he doesn’t have the track record to fall back on to justify saving his job.

Bowden will be replaced for the rest of the season by Dabo Swinney, his wide receivers coach. That both coordinators were passed over probably says something about their perceived competency by the top brass in the athletic department. That, or the AD really likes the name “Dabo Swinney,” and nobody can fault him for that.

Swinney’s interim job will be in turmoil from the start; Clemson is just 3-3 and in danger of not qualifying for a bowl for the first time since before Bowden arrived (Clemson, remember, declined their eligibility in 2004 after a ridiculous brawl with South Carolina in their season finale). Further, will Swinney uphold Bowden’s decision to start Korn or go back to the heretofore ineffective Harper? His players’ loyalty may hinge on that single decision.

Last question here, then I’ll shut up. In 1997, when Tommy Bowden starting his 18-4 stint at Tulane and Terry Bowden was seemingly firmly entrenched at Auburn, did anybody really think Bobby Bowden was going to outlast both of his sons?