OK, now I’m ready

I’ve let it simmer for a few days, hoping that time would help me to write something positive about Tommy Bowden’s nearly 10-year run as the head coach of the Clemson football program.

To be fair, there have been some achievements. He beat Florida State a few times, which had eluded most other Clemson coaches. He beat Tennessee once, back when Tennessee was still Tennessee. And there’s no question that, under his leadership, the talent level at the school rose dramatically over the last decade.

The results didn’t follow, however, and that’s why Dabo Swinney is now holding down the fort as the Tigers’ interim coach.

I’m not a “fire-the-coach fan.” My time in the business has helped me understand the challenges that coaches face. I know that Tommy Bowden is a decent human being and was far more upset about the joke of a season Clemson is having than I am.

But after almost 10 years without an ACC title, it was time for a change.

So, can the season be saved?

I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. The ACC title is likely out of reach with Wake Forest already being two games ahead in the league standings (with the head-to-head tiebreaker, of course).

The real question is this: How many games out of the last six does Swinney need to win to keep the job for 2009?

I think he needs to win either five without a bowl victory or four with one, but only if one of those is a win over South Carolina. Confusing? Sure.

But then again, so is everything else in Tiger town. 

As for the quarterbacking situation, all I can say is that inserting Willy Korn into the lineup came about five games too late for me.

Cullen Harper is a shell of the quarterback he was in 2007. Let’s see what Korn, who has been touted as the future of Clemson football since his junior year of high school, can do this weekend against a Georgia Tech squad that barely beat my alma-mater, Gardner-Webb, 10-7 last week.

If Swinney doesn’t get the full-time gig in 2009, here’s who I’d like to see:

1. Will Muschamp (Texas assistant) – Big-time personality with a lot of coaching skills. Will probably be the most sought after assistant in the land this winter. Would have to go get an offensive guy, but there are a few out there.

2. Gary Patterson (TCU head coach) – Has won at Texas Christian with second-rate facilities while competing with the larger Texas schools for talent and exposure. Probably one of the best defensive minds in college football, and his offenses haven’t been too shabby either.

3. Bud Foster (assistant coach at Virginia Tech) – Knows the ACC in and out, is a capable defensive coach and has the personality to lead a high-profile program. Would need a good offensive coordinator, though.

4. Skip Holtz (ECU head coach) – OK, the Cinderella thing at East Carolina hasn’t really worked out this year, but that program was in the tank before Lou’s son arrived in Greenville. I think he could do well in a bigger conference with more talented players at his disposal. Would need a good defensive coordinator, though. Maybe Vic Koenning would stick around? I actually think he’s doing a great job.

5. Swinney – I’ve heard a lot of good things about him. He’s the mastermind behind many of Clemson’s recent splashy recruiting classes, so if he can coach a lick, we could already have the right man for the job in house.

That’s my list. No, I don’t want Bobby Johnson, the Clemson grad who’s lighting up the SEC this year at Vanderbilt. He’s not what the program needs right now. And I don’t want Lane Kiffin or Bill Cowher, either. Aside from Pete Carroll, the NFL to college model doesn’t often work out that well.

So grab some popcorn and pull up a chair. The next few months at Clemson are going to be really interesting.



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