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Friday, July 25, 2008
Tommy Bowden: Like father, like son (kind of)


Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

 
 Gene Lower/Getty Images
 Bobby Bowden (left) prepared his sons for the ups and downs a head coach goes through.

About three or four years ago, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden took a personality test, and it revealed that in many ways, he's like his father, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. The way they are socially, their staff management and lifestyles are similar.

In some ways, their career paths have also paralleled.

Bobby Bowden pointed to a stretch in FSU history from 1987-1992 when many outside the program were asking the same questions his son is facing now, as Tommy Bowden's team could win its first ACC title since 1991.

"We went seven years coming out second, third, second, fourth ... nothing worse than fourth," Bobby Bowden said. "So what are they saying? You can't win the big one. And so then we finally win it, right? But that's exactly like Tommy. Sometimes you have to go through that. You coach, you can't quite do it, you don't quite do it, everybody says you can't do it, then all of a sudden you get over the hump. It would be great if he could get over the hump, but it might not happen."

Bobby Bowden got a little help getting there from guys like Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke.

"It's amazing how lucky you get when you have a great quarterback," Bobby Bowden said.

They were both Heisman Trophy winners. Cullen Harper isn't even on most people's lists.

That doesn't mean the Tigers aren't a top 10 team.

The two coaches talk two or three times a week during the season. Not about X's and O's, but about things like practice, discipline, the media, how much hitting they're doing. So far, they haven't talked about the expectations Tommy is facing this season.  

"I don't have to because he's been around me all his life," Bobby Bowden said. "He knows what's out there. He knows the good times and the bad times a head coach goes through."

And when it comes to family, they take the bad times personally. Which is why it's been so difficult for Tommy Bowden to watch what has happened in Tallahassee the past few years -- particularly when brother/FSU offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden resigned after 13 seasons with his father.

"That's the hardest thing," Tommy Bowden said. "Anytime family is involved, with what my brother Jeff went through at Florida State -- I know how much it hurt my father. Blood's blood. That was probably the hardest thing. Public criticism in this profession -- he's taught me and Terry and Jeff how to handle that -- but I think when the public criticism is your own son ... it is personal."

How about when it's your own father?

Tommy Bowden was a redshirt sophomore receiver at West Virginia in 1974 when his dad was head coach of the Mountaineers. They were driving to church one morning when the younger Bowden noticed a replica of his father swinging from a tree.

"I looked at that thing said, 'Y'all didn't make it fat enough,'" Bowden recalled with a laugh. "'Throw some more stuffin' in there. He's got a little more belly than what ya'll think.'"

They're both good at deflecting criticism with humor.

While the Bowdens share many traits on and off the field, there's one glaring difference:

"I don't see myself coaching at 78, or even 68 for that matter," said the 54-year-old Bowden. "I really don't. I enjoy other things. I enjoy the beach, counting the waves, sitting there reading, walking with my wife, things like that. Going out on the boat with my dog and my wife. I think he saw Bear Bryant die six months after he played his last game. He was always like Bear Bryant. I've got other hobbies."

Getting over that hump just isn't one of them -- not yet, anyway.