Tommy Bowden lauds Tulane; weighs in on Clemson, LSU
It was a pleasure to spend time with a friend again.
Though he was only on the local scene for two years, Tommy Bowden made an indelible impression in the New Orleans community.
His children attended John Curtis Christian. He recruited the New Orleans area heavily.
Most of all, he hired an outstanding coaching staff, took a group of players with talent who were brought in by Buddy Teevens and simply put a round peg in a round hole.
The result was a 7-4 season in 1997, losing a close game to Rice and falling to Ole Miss, Southern Miss and Syracuse.
After a 1-2 start, Tulane closed the season 6-2, setting the state for a special, memorable season in 1998, the best season in program history.
In 1998, Shaun King led a dynamic offense which averaged 45 points per game on the way to a perfect 12-0 mark and No. 7 ranking nationally.
“It was a great experience back in 1997 and 1998,” Bowden said.
To this day, Bowden sees the vast potential of Tulane football.
“When I took this job, I thought there were so many key ingredients that they had.” Bowden said. “New Orleans is a great football city. They love sports here. It’s an international and national city. I thought the social life for student-athletes would be attractive, the great education. The recruiting base, gosh, you’ve got the panhandle, the state of Louisiana, Mississippi, East Texas, there’s too many ingredients here not for them to be successful.”
Bowden gave credit to his predecessor at Tulane.
“I inherited some great players that Buddy Teevens had left so I really hit it at a good time,” Bowden said. “The people here treated me really good. Sandy Barbour was the athletic director at that time who really tried to give me everything we needed to be successful.”
The job Bowden did at Tulane drew the attention of Clemson, who made Bowden an offer he could not refuse.
“At that particular time, the Saints were not winning, LSU was not winning so Tulane going undefeated, it was a tough decision to leave,” Bowden said.
Bowden is impressed with the job Willie Fritz is doing at Tulane.
“He has been really cordial to me,” Bowden said. “He has given me invitations to come back. He has treated me really good. When they hired him, I thought he would be the right guy and he is the right guy. I hope they can keep him because I think he will continue to have more success which will make him an attractive candidate somewhere else. I hope he stays. He’s the right guy at the right time.”
In 10 seasons with the Tigers, Bowden earned ACC Coach of the Year honors twice and led Clemson to eight bowl games.
It was not enough for him to keep his job after a decade as a former player who played under him at Alabama when Bowden was an assistant took center stage.
Assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney was promoted to head coach when Bowden was dismissed in the middle of the 2008 season. The rest is history.
“I hired a guy named Dabo Swinney who’s taken it to another level,” Bowden said. “He’s got several intangibles but if I had to pick one, he’s a really good recruiter. The team with the best players usually wins. I made the decision to hire him. I interviewed another guy that played for me at Alabama who was a talented coach. Dado had a little more of an impressive resume from a recruiting standpoint.”
Clemson has become the top program in the country, surpassing Alabama most recently with two national championships in the last three years. They were playoff semifinalists in the other year.
Bowden is not surprised by the success of the Tiger program.
“Originally, when I went there, they had won a national championship in 1981,” Bowden said. “Usually, if you go to a school that’s won a national championship before, there’s an opportunity for another one.”
How does Bowden view the national championship game matchup with LSU?
“There are two great quarterbacks, one who won the Heisman, the other was the preseason favorite for the Heisman” Bowden said. “There’s some individual things from a coaching perspective I’m really excited about seeing. Number one is the young gunslinger Joe Brady offensive play-caller, along with Steve Ensminger vs. Brent Venables. You’ve got an experienced, old guy who really knows how to dissect an offense.
Bowden is sure that a Louisiana product on the Clemson team will be suitably motivated.
“You’ve got Travis Etienne who is one of the top running backs in the country, maybe the most productive running back in the country who was really not recruited actively by LSU,” Bowden said. “ It should be a great game with a lot of big plays in it.”
When he spoke at the luncheon, addressing the crowd, Bowden addressed the student-athletes in the crowd, strongly encouraging them to consider attending Tulane.
“You can win and win big at Tulane and it is a great academic university in a great city,” Bowden said.
For one day, Bowden enjoyed his return to our great city.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…