Tommy Bowden Fired - Who'll Replace Him?
Tommy Bowden was ousted as the Clemson head coach following several disappointments and a rough loss to Wake Forest. It's a plum job opening and all the big names will be thrown around. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp? Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson? Bill Cowher?! Richard Cirminiello looks at the Bowden era and the possible new head man.
Clemson Fires Tommy Bowden
Who are the top
candidates to replace him?
Five years ago, Tommy Bowden was on the chopping block before rallying
Clemson to a four-game winning streak down the stretch that saved his
job. Two years later, it was a similar deal, turning wins over Florida
State, South Carolina, and a bowl opponent into a reprieve in Death
Valley. Possibly sensing that another strong finish would complicate the
situation, the administration pulled the plug on Bowden Monday before he
had a chance to get off the mat one more time.
While Bowden certainly had some high points, on and off the field, since
arriving in 1999, a decade is a very long time to get over the hump. Too
long, in fact.
Over that span, Maryland and Wake Forest have played in the Orange Bowl,
yet Clemson’s next BCS invite will be its first. Under Bowden, the
Tigers had earned a reputation as underachievers, lacking consistency
despite having as much talent as anyone in the ACC, including Florida
State, Virginia Tech, and Miami. This season became a microcosm for the
coach, taking a No. 9 preseason ranking and a roster loaded with future
NFL players and parlaying it into a dreary 3-3 start. Things were not
going to get better, which became painfully obvious to anyone that
followed the program or talked with its players.
A change at the top in Clemson was overdue and probably a couple of
years too late. Heck, if the school let him go earlier rather than
extending his contract, it might not be in the middle of the ACC pack or
about to pay a seven-digit buyout. Now that it’s done, where do we go
Does Willy Korn still replace Cullen Harper at quarterback? How will the
Tigers perform under Dabo Swinney, an ace recruiter and one of the
best-liked coaches on the staff? There are two things you can bank on:
First, Bowden will coach again if he wants to. Don’t forget that
Arkansas made a handsome offer just last December. And second, athletic
director Terry Don Phillips will have no problems finding a top-tier
head coach. Clemson has the facilities, history, and recruiting base to
be the dominant factor in the ACC, which is exactly why Bowden is
out of work today.
The Top Candidates To Replace Bowden
1. Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator, Texas
His defense got ripped up by Oklahoma, but he’s still given credit for
his Longhorns getting pressure on Sam Bradford and closing things up in
the second half (for the most part). A rent-a-coach for the Longhorns,
Muschamp has an SEC background, a proven track record, and will be the
hot name for every coaching vacancy until he’s hired away.
2. Lane Kiffin, former Oakland Raider head coach
Considered one of the brightest young minds in football, even with
Al Davis trying to tear him down, Kiffin has all the makings of an elite
college head coach. The son of NFL legendary defensive coordinator,
Monte, Lane combines the defensive toughness with a mindset for the
3. Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt head coach
Born in Columbia, South Carolina, Johnson gets the state’s football
scene. Not only was he a good corner for Clemson in the early 1970s, but
he showed this year that he can beat South Carolina. Don’t’ discount
what a big deal that is to Clemson fans. His stock will never be higher,
but he has to fight the age issue. He’s 59.
4. Brent Venables, Oklahoma defensive coordinator
It’s hit or miss when it comes to the success of Oklahoma assistants
as head coaches, but the OU defensive coordinator is a primetime
recruiter who has put together several of the nation’s top defenses.
Being the defensive coordinator for Bob Stoops is sort of like being
Dave Grohl’s drummer; if you’re good, you’ve earned the seal of
approval. However, he doesn’t have any head coaching experience or any
ties to the ACC.
5. Jim McElwain, Alabama offensive coordinator
The hot coordinator on the hot team, McElwain came over from Fresno
State and has helped take a mediocre (by SEC standards) offense and made
it shine. While he’s great at getting a passing game to go, he’s better
at producing tough, physical attacks.
6. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest head coach
The 56-year-old has built an ACC power at Wake Forest. If you can’t
beat him, buy him. A true ACC man, who played at Virginia, he’s widely
known for being among the nation’s most respected and effective head
7. Al Golden, Temple head coach
The former Penn State tight end is only 39 and might need one more
stepping-stone job before he can get a plum gig like Clemson, but he’s
on everyone’s radar. If you can recruit at Temple, you can recruit
anywhere. After starting out under George Welsh, Groh was a major factor
building Virginia into a decent success under Al Groh. He’d make the
Clemson defense instantly better.
8. Bill Cowher, CBS studio analyst
This is the dream pick if Clemson wants to open up the checkbook.
Cowher has been open about considering the coaching life again, but he’s
more likely going to break the bank for some NFL team, possibly
Cleveland or Kansas City if and when those jobs open up. However, the NC
State grad hasn’t ruled out the college game, and if Clemson is ready to
go Saban and get into the highest-paid college coach range, this isn’t
as far-fetched a possibility as it might appear.