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Tulane's Bowden to take Clemson job
Posted: Thursday December 03, 1998 01:50 AM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Tommy Bowden, who turned Tulane from a football laughingstock into the No. 9 team in the nation with an 11-0 record, held an emotional last meeting with his players Wednesday before heading for his new job at Clemson.
Quarterback Shaun King said several at the meeting were close to tears as Bowden said his goodbyes.
"Everybody was trying to be a man, but we felt it in our hearts. He was like a father figure and it's hard to lose someone like that," said running back Toney Converse.
"It hurt. It hurt deep down inside because we all worked so hard for him," said cornerback Alphonso Roundtree.
Bowden dodged reporters throughout the day and only briefly acknowledged the pending change during a brief visit to Jackson, Mississippi, for a speech to a group of high school students.
"It's amazing what can happen on a 30-minute flight to here. I changed jobs," Bowden joked.
He is expected to hold a news conference at Clemson on Thursday.
Bowden's father, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, said a better shot at a national championship was a factor in his son's decision.
"You know, at a school like Clemson or Florida State, an ACC school or an SEC school, you have a chance of winning a national championship," the elder Bowden said. "Because of the schedule and other things at Tulane, that's not as possible.
"Besides, how could he improve on what he'd done this year? He had no where to go there but down."
Clemson and Florida State are in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which will pit father and son against each other every year.
Tulane athletic director Sandy Barbour named offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez interim coach and said a national search for a full time replacement will begin immediately and be completed as quickly as possible.
"We are committed to having a Top 25 football team no matter who coaches it," Barbour said.
Rodriguez is also a candidate to take over for Bowden. He was recently named one of the top assistants in the nation by Sports Illustrated.
Rodriguez also planned to interview with Middle Tennessee State on Thursday and had tentatively scheduled a meeting with Southwestern Louisiana for later in the week. Bowden also offered him the offensive coordinator-assistant head coach job at Clemson, Rodriguez said.
"Of the four, I'd prefer to stay as Tulane's coach," Rodriguez said. "I've kind of set next Wednesday as my deadline to decide. That's when we begin practicing for the bowl game."
Tulane is to play BYU in the Liberty Bowl. Rodriguez said he wanted to coach that game, but if he became a head coach elsewhere, that might not be possible.
Bowden just completed his second season at Tulane. His first team went 7-4, snapping a string of 15 non-winning seasons. This year Tulane was 11-0, won the Conference USA title, and moved steadily up in the rankings.
Bowden was in the first year of a five-year deal at Tulane. Clemson reportedly has offered to pay half of the $750,000 required to buy out the contract.
Clemson is reportedly offering Bowden a yearly package of $750,000 to $800,000. Tulane had agreed to match the Clemson offer, build a new practice facility, and address academic concerns that he had, but could not sway Bowden.
"I don't think Tommy Bowden left Tulane because of anything we didn't do," Tulane president Scott Cowen said. "He left because he wanted to be at Clemson."
"I really feel bad for the freshmen," said Roundtree, a senior. "But after being in college football, you learn. It's a business. You're not playing for fun anymore. It's about money and jobs. It's not like high school."
At Clemson, Bowden is replacing Tommy West, who was fired just before completing a 3-8 season last month.
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