NCF Nation: Tommy Bowden

Terry Bowden grew up in Morgantown and attended West Virginia. For fun, he and his friends would make the hour-plus trip to the big city of Pittsburgh to go shopping at the South Hills mall. He'd watch Terry Bradshaw sling it at Steelers training camp in Latrobe.

So yes, the Akron coach can probably tell you more about Saturday's opponent and the Western Pennsylvania region than many within the Pitt program.

Like the difference between old Heisman winner Tony Dorsett and the nation's current top rusher, James Conner.

[+] EnlargeTerry Bowden
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarTerry Bowden is in his third year as Akron's coach.
"He would accelerate into a crack like you never saw anybody do it," Bowden says of Dorsett. "This guy (Conner) will make the crack. He'll make the hole, and then run through it."

Or the excitement of the Pirates clinching consecutive postseason berths.

"That's awesome. I go back to Willie Stargell. I go back to chicken on the Hill and Bob Prince," he says of the announcer's famous call.

Or the worst loss his dad, the legendary Bobby Bowden, experienced during his 44-year head-coaching career.

"He'll tell you: It was 36-35 to Pitt," Terry Bowden says. "He was winning 35-8 at halftime, in his first year as a head coach in college at West Virginia, and they played it it too tight and (Pitt) decided they would not punt on fourth, they were just gonna go for it because they thought they were gonna get run off the field, and they made every one. And by the time they made every fourth down the last one was at the end of the game to win the game, 36-35."

More importantly, the third-year Zips coach can point to the third-year Panthers coach he'll be squaring off against this weekend and notice plenty of similarities, from the stamp each is trying to put on his program to the coaching bloodlines that carried each into his chosen profession.

Paul Chryst, of course, is the son of the late George Chryst, a beloved figure on the Wisconsin-Platteville campus who served as head coach for 14 years before his sudden death at the age of 55, in 1992. Bowden, who like his father Bobby and brother Tommy has a coach of the year award to his name, knows such exposure to that life as a child rubs off.

"I feel real fortunate to have grown up the way I did," Chryst said. "You don't know as a kid, you only know what your life is, and when you look back and reflect on it, it's a great way to grow up, and so I was kind of attracted to the profession that way, a ton of respect, look up to your dad; there's a lot of kids that want to be like their dad.

"I think what it was is you're just around the game probably more so than Xs and Os. By the time I was really serious into coaching, my dad had passed away. I was just getting into it. But I think it was just being around it, being around the game, and the people."

Says Bowden: "I've often said that being the son of a football coach, the biggest thing you know how to do is you know how how to act like a football coach -- when you win, when you lose, when you drop a couple of games, when you have to respond from a tough situation."

It doesn't get much tougher than what Bowden experienced at the end of last season, when separate car accidents during a four-day span in December took the lives of Akron assistant Alan "Tank" Arrington and nephew T.J. Bowden, the son of Zips assistant Jeff.

"It shakes your foundation," he says. "It makes you put football in perspective. When all is said and done, it brings your family together, and it brings your football family together. And you mourn together and you come together, and at end of the day you know that there's a bigger picture out there and things that we don't understand, but there's also the language -- people come together and grow from these experiences, and I think most of us here have."

Bowden says he's trying to take Akron to a place it's never been before, and he tries not to lose sight of the big picture. He jokes that you could be a heck of a coach in his family and still never be better than second-best. He knows the identity of the program he's facing Saturday, and he sees how close Chryst -- a coach he has no prior relationship with -- is to restoring that.

"I'm 58 now, but I'm always Bobby Bowden's son," he says. "Heck, that's my mentor. My dad's my mentor. All of us boys and his sons, we've tried to emulate our father."

The coach he'll meet at Heinz Field will likely nod in agreement.

3-point stance: Common sense lacking

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1. Let’s say, as the NCAA and Texas A&M did Wednesday, that Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel didn’t take any money to sign his name for people who he knew would profit from his autographs. And let’s say, as ESPN reported several weeks ago, that Manziel signed more than 4,400 items at several signings. Here’s the question that has gone unanswered: why did he sign them all? You can’t blame the NCAA for applying the half-game suspension. It has no evidence that he took money. But there’s no evidence that the NCAA applied common sense, either.

2. Bumped into former Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden in the Atlanta airport Wednesday evening. He said Virginia Tech’s chance to upset No. 1 Alabama will depend on whether Logan Thomas can make something happen with his arm. “That’s what Nick Saban does,” Bowden said. “He’s not going to let you run. That’s what they did to us.” In the inaugural Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic five years ago, the Crimson Tide limited the Tigers to 188 total yards -- zero rushing -- in a 34-10 “upset.” That’s right: Alabama, coming off a 7-6 season, began 2008 ranked No. 24. Clemson was No. 9.

3. So the conservative Big Ten will allow unlimited replays on its stadium video boards this season. So the fuddy-duddy Big Ten sees an issue bigger than respect for on-field authority. That issue is empty seats. The game-day experience of $35 parking and $4 soft drinks is losing its appeal when compared to a 50-inch big-screen (with unlimited replays) in a climate-controlled home. The marketplace trumps concern for the officials. It’s a smart decision. The officials will be fine.

3-point stance: Parsing K-State-Oregon

October, 24, 2012
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1. I wrote here yesterday that No. 4 Kansas State may have a BCS problem for canceling a game with No. 3 Oregon this season. Wildcat fans rushed to their team’s defense, saying the cancellation had been mutual. Since I first heard that Kansas State bailed from Ducks coach Chip Kelly, I went back to Eugene. Oregon executive assistant AD Dave Williford told me that when the 2011 Cowboys Classic offered a slot against LSU, Oregon asked Kansas State to reschedule. Kansas State, needing to go to a nine-game Big 12 schedule, said, let’s just call off the home-and-home, and Oregon agreed. Parse that as you will.

2. It makes sense that Kansas State is tied for the FBS lead in fewest penalties per game. Coach Bill Snyder is known for his discipline and attention to detail. It makes sense that Navy and Air Force rank third and fourth, respectively, and if I have to explain that, we’re both in trouble. But there at No. 5 is Boston College, winless against FBS competition. Give credit to head coach Frank Spaziani and his staff, and give credit to his players, and then, yes, parse that as you will.

3. The last time that Clemson played Wake Forest on a Thursday night, in 2008, a 12-7 Deacs victory dropped the Tigers to 3-3 (1-3 vs. FBS) and cost coach Tommy Bowden his job. “Oh my goodness, it was a long night and a long trip back,” said then-receivers coach Dabo Swinney. On the following Monday, he became the interim head coach. This Thursday, Swinney takes Clemson to Wake Forest as the defending ACC champion. “Sometimes,” Swinney said, “I sit and I reflect and I’m blown away by how quickly life can change.”
RodriguezChris Coduto/Icon SMICoaches around the country have implemented parts of Rich Rodriguez's hurry-up spread offense.
Here's an interesting story from Andrea Adelson about "copycat coaches." It's interesting not only because it's a good topic but also, for our purposes, because its central figure is new Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, arguably the father of the modern day, run-first spread-option attack.

Andrea sent over the Q&A she did with Rodriguez, which we're going to publish in its entirety. It includes lots of background on Rodriguez and his innovative offense, which has been copied by a lot of folks -- yes, including that guy up in Eugene.

Thanks to Andrea for doing all the legwork and writing a nice story.

When was the first time you had coaches asking for pointers on your offense?

Rich Rodriguez: When we went to Tulane, the second year we had a good year, with Shaun King. Then you had some games on TV, and that was the first time after that season that a lot of coaches started coming and visiting and calling. We beat BYU in a bowl game, and Lavell [Edwards] was the head coach, Norm Chow the offensive coordinator. So after the game, they said, ‘Would you come over and talk some football with us? I’m thinking are you kidding me? This is Norm Chow and Lavell Edwards, the passing gurus. I said I’ll do it on one condition. You have to give me some of your information, too. You have to teach me what you’re doing. Norm and I have been friends since that time. It was a great trip.

What was your connection with Tommy Bowden at Tulane?

RR: At Glenville, I went to the Bowden Passing Academy and I always talked football. Tommy had taken an interest in what we were doing. We never worked together when he called me to be offensive coordinator. It was really flattering. I asked, ‘Will you let me run my offense?’ He said sure. Tommy was the first big name, big coach, who took an interest in what we were doing. When we went to Tulane, there were a few folks. At Clemson, we saw a few more. Then at West Virginia, it wasn’t as good the first year we were there, but after that it took off again. I can remember Urban [Meyer], when he first got the Bowling Green job, we were at a coaches convention hospitality bar. He told me, ‘I’d like to run some of your offense.’ So he sent his whole staff for a week, we traded some ideas and so we always traded ideas. The Oklahoma guys, Bob Stoops and I became friends. They would come to our place or we’d go to Oklahoma and spend the week. After the Sugar Bowl year in the 2005 season, we had a whole bunch more. Some 30 different staffs come in, Penn State, Ohio State some non-traditional non-spread coaching staffs. I said maybe I am being too open, but I thought it was a great opportunity for us to learn, too. To pick their brains.

(Read full post)

With the sanctions levied against Penn State's football program Monday, former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden now owns the record for most wins in FBS history.

It's an honor his son, former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, said will be forever overshadowed by the circumstances in which Bobby Bowden overtook Joe Paterno in the record books.

"His record speaks for itself, and it's my father so you'd like to be happy for him," Tommy Bowden said. "But under the circumstances, it pales in comparison to how significant those problems are and the lives that have been affected."

Paterno, the longtime Penn State head coach, had 111 wins dating back to 1998 vacated from his record as part of the NCAA's sanctions announced Monday, which also included $60 million in fines, a four-year bowl ban and a loss of scholarships in light of the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault case.

That leaves Paterno with an official win tally of 298, well behind Bobby Bowden's official career tally of 377.

Of course, Bowden's actual record on the field included 12 additional wins that were also vacated due to an academic fraud investigation surrounding several FSU players in 2009.

"Even though he did not know about his (infractions), he was the head coach and, as the head coach, you're held responsible," Tommy Bowden said of his father's vacated wins. "The NCAA merited a just discipline for that infraction, and with Penn State they did the same thing."

Bowden said he believed the NCAA's sanctions against Penn State were fair, but he said it was important not to view the wins record as a victory for his father.

"It's such an insignificant thing," Bowden said. "You have to put it in context."

Possible candidates for UNC

July, 28, 2011
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We'll know more about which direction North Carolina is headed following today's 11 a.m. press conference, but it's hard not to assume they're going the interim direction. Colleague Bruce Feldman listed some potential candidates for the long-term, and one name appears on both of our lists: Bud Foster. The Hokies' defensive guru has made no secret about the fact he wants to be a head coach, and his name has been tied to several openings in the past. It seems completely unreasonable to think an entirely new staff could come in just two weeks before the start of fall camp, but there will be plenty of speculation as to who will lead the Tar Heels on a permanent basis. I haven't heard anything confirming any names, so consider this a list of possibilities for North Carolina's next coach:

INTERIM

Everett Withers, defensive coordinator: He has 24 seasons of coaching experience at both the collegiate and NFL levels. North Carolina's defense has been in the spotlight under Withers, and what he cobbled together in spite of the NCAA investigations was impressive.

John Shoop, offensive coordinator:He has two decades of coaching experience in both the NCAA and NFL, and has been a coordinator for both. Carolina's offense improved under Shoop, but he's a quirky character who has been given his fair share of heat at times from UNC fans.

Sam Pittman, offensive line coach:The title of associate head coach was added earlier this month, but Pittman has spent the past four seasons coaching the Tar Heels' offensive line. School spokesman Kevin Best said there's not necessarily a correlation between Pittman's recent promotion and the timing of the coaching change.

NEW HIRE

Bud Foster, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator:Give the man a chance, willya?

Randy Shannon, former Miami coach:He knows the ACC, he's a good recruiter, and the timing would work well if an interim were hired this year because Shannon isn't coaching this season. Shannon was reportedly interested in the Maryland job and wants to return to coaching.

Name your Bowden: Terry or Tommy, both have plenty of coaching experience to offer.

ACC's top 10 coaches of the decade

January, 21, 2010
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Only two programs in the ACC -- Florida State and Virginia Tech -- have had the same head coach for the past 10 years. A total of 27 different coaches have made their way through the conference in the past decade, and some of the best have been the least tenured. Only one, though, stands out above the rest when it comes down to wins and losses -- Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer. Even though the Hokies have only been in the conference since 2004, no other coach has compared to Beamer’s six straight 10-win seasons. Others, though, like Duke’s David Cutcliffe, have made progress that isn’t as easily measured. Six of the following coaches were named the ACC's Coach of the Year at least once in the past decade. One major accomplishment separates the coaches at the top of the list from the ones at the bottom -- an ACC title.

Here’s a look at the ACC’s top 10 coaches over the past decade:


Geoff Burke/US PresswireVirginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has led the Hokies to six-straight 10-win seasons.
1. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: Beamer has compiled a 62-18 record for a 77.5 winning percentage since joining the ACC in 2004. He has led the Hokies to three ACC titles and four first-place finishes.

2. Bobby Bowden, Florida State: Don’t let recent history fool you. Bowden earned a winning percent of 65.8 percent over the past decade (85-44). He led FSU to its third straight BCS national championship appearance and won four ACC titles.

3. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest: After inheriting a 2-9 program from Jim Caldwell in 2001, Grobe transformed the smallest school in the BCS to a championship contender in the ACC. He led the school to the ACC title in 2006, its first since 1970 and second ever. He has only had one losing season in the past four.

4. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech: His tenure is short, but his list of accomplishments long. After just two seasons, Johnson led the program to an ACC title, BCS bowl berth, and road win over rival Georgia. He has won 74 percent of his games (20-7) and put the team in the final top 25 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 2000-2001 seasons.

5. Ralph Friedgen, Maryland: Terps fans have suffered recently, but it was Friedgen’s first three seasons that earned him his lengthy 10-year contract in College Park. Three straight finishes of at least 10 wins and top 20 rankings, plus an ACC title earned the Fridge some clout.

6. Jeff Jagodzinski, Boston College: He left Chestnut Hill with his ego guiding him, but before he chased the NFL, Jagodzinski led the Eagles to back-to-back appearances in the ACC championship game, and compiled a 20-8 record in two seasons.

7. Tommy Bowden, Clemson: The former head coach finished no better than second place in the Atlantic Division and won 62.8 percent of his games. He also led the Tigers to four Top 25 finishes in the Associated Press rankings.

8. Al Groh, Virginia: He was named the ACC’s Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2007, both nine-win seasons that tied for second place in the conference or Coastal Division. He won 56 percent of his games and had two top 25 finishes.

9. Tom O’Brien, Boston College: It seems like O’Brien has been around forever, but he only had two seasons at BC while the program was in the ACC and just finished three at NC State. In ’05 and 06, though, O’Brien led the Eagles to 9 and 10-win seasons, respectively, and won bowl games both years to finish with two top 20 rankings. He also pushed NC State into the postseason with four straight regular-season wins in 2008.

10. Duke coach David Cutcliffe: Cutcliffe has guided Duke to a 9-15 overall record in two seasons. While it might not look like much, consider that the Blue Devils had won 10 games in the previous eight seasons combined. During that span, Duke had won just three conference games. They’ve won four in just two years under Cutcliffe. The 5-7 record in 2009 was the program’s highest win total since 1994.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 25, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Franklin Street is a fitting place to be reading the ACC papers, don't you think? I met with UNC coach Butch Davis this morning, and have a couple of interviews before heading to practice this afternoon. Until then ... here's what's going on in ACC country:

  • Speaking of UNC, the Tar Heels are putting an emphasis on finding some receivers this spring, but they've already found one in Greg Little.
  • The NCAA is wondering "what gives" when it comes to hiring veteran assistants as graduate assistants, like former Virginia offensive coordinator Mike Groh's new gig at Alabama.
  • Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin will receive $1 million if he's not named the head coach when Ralph Friedgen decides to call it quits. The Terps started spring practice on Tuesday, and they're counting on Adrian Moten to help usher the young linebackers along.
  • The Demon Deacons started practice Tuesday and one of their priorities is filling the holes on defense.
  • Florida State picked up another commitment for the 2010 class.
  • Former Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper is still answering questions about the statement he made last year that former coach Tommy Bowden" got what he deserved," only this time, NFL scouts are asking the questions.
  • NC State halfback Toney Baker can run and fish.

ACC: So long, 2008

January, 14, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It was a great season to cover ACC football, with plenty of memorable moments, games, plays, coaches, players and issues -- some good, some not so good. Here are a few things I won't forget from 2008, in no particular order:

The jumbled, exciting race for the ACC title -- It was arguably the most competitive season in ACC football history, as the race to Tampa came down to the final weeks in November, and four teams finished with 5-3 conference records and six teams finished at 4-4.

Tommy Bowden resigns midseason -- On Oct. 13, 2008, Clemson announced that Bowden would no longer be head coach, and wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney took over the program and made immediate, sweeping changes, including the firing of offensive coordinator Rob Spence.

Miami's quarterback controversy -- It all began when starter Robert Marve was suspended for the season opener, and ended with him being suspended for the Emerald Bowl. Jacory Harris or Marve? Following Marve's transfer, there's only one choice.

Myron Rolle wins a Rhodes Scholarship -- There might not have been a more positive story in ACC football this season, as Rolle interviewed for one of the prestigious scholarships on the same day Florida State played a critical Atlantic Division game at Maryland. Rolle won the award, and flew to Maryland in time to contribute to the 37-3 win.

Virginia Tech wins the FedEx Orange Bowl -- The Hokies did the most with the least this season, as Frank Beamer did arguably the best coaching job of his career and led Virginia Tech to its fifth straight 10-win season. The 20-7 win over Cincinnati gave the ACC its first BCS bowl win since 1999.

Jeff Jagodzinski gets fired -- After only his second season and back-to-back appearances in the ACC title game, Jagodzinski decided to interview with the New York Jets, knowing it would cost him his job. A private matter of trust between Jagodzinski and athletic director Gene DeFilippo became public.

Bye-bye coordinators -- Virginia coach Al Groh fired his son, offensive coordinator Mike Groh, Miami coach Randy Shannon fired offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, Clemson coach Swinney fired offensive coordinator Spence, and both Maryland and Clemson's defensive coordinators both bolted for K-State. BC will need a new defensive coordinator now that Frank Spaziani is the new head coach.

Georgia Tech's 45-42 win over Georgia -- The Yellow Jackets earned their first win in the series since 2000, and they did it on the road and in Paul Johnson's first season. Georgia Tech broke a seven-game losing streak to the Dawgs and rushed for 409 yards in the process. It was arguably the ACC's best nonconference win of the season, though the Hokies' win over Cincinnati had a bigger impact.

The poor attendance at the ACC title game in Tampa -- Having seen it first-hand, it will be tough to forget. According to the St. Pete Times, the turnstile count for the game at Raymond James Stadium was 27,360, about half the tickets that were sold and distributed (53,927).

NCAA-record 10 bowl eligible teams -- Heading into the season, it didn't seem as if the ACC would be strong enough to have even a ninth team qualify to play in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl, but the conference became the first to send 10 teams to bowl games in a single season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Clemson survived just about everything a team possibly could this season -- everything, that is, but the final two minutes.

 
 Daniel Plassmann/US Presswire
 Coach Dabo Swinney's mistake-prone offense cost Clemson in the Gator Bowl.

The Tigers endured a faceplant after being elevated to unrealistic expectations in the preseason polls, a midseason coaching change, and the loss of both their offensive and defensive coordinators. Their offensive woes came back to haunt them, though, on their final possession of the season in a 26-21 loss to Nebraska.

Instead of throwing the ball away as efficiently as he did for much of the first half, quarterback Cullen Harper was sacked for a loss of 16 yards to set up third-and-goal from the 26. Clemson had no timeouts and the playclock was running. Amid confusion on the final play, Harper took the snap with only three seconds left on the play clock, and for some reason, Aaron Kelly, Clemson's record-setting receiver, wasn't involved in the play.

The disorganization continued when the defense was penalized for having 12 players on the field, and Clemson looked more like a 4-4 ACC team than say, a certain 5-3 ACC team that won nine games this year.

Florida State, Maryland and Wake Forest -- all Atlantic Division teams -- are the only ACC winners in the nine bowl games that have been played so far. Tonight's FedEx Orange Bowl, featuring ACC champ Virginia Tech, is the conference's final chance to improve its bowl record.

Clemson has plenty of chances to do it, but was inept on offense (four yards rushing, three of 16 on third-down conversions) against a rather inviting pass defense. Harper threw two costly interceptions, and all three of Clemson's scores came off turnovers. In addition to adding a defensive coordinator to his staff, coach Dabo Swinney might also want to think long and hard about an offensive coordinator. The Tigers were also hurt by a blocked punt and a blocked field goal.

It all overshadowed a gutsy effort by the Tigers' defense, which forced Nebraska to score on four field goals, and scored the first touchdown of the game. Clemson can't knock good teams off the ball, and the Tigers struggle against veteran defenses that are well coached. And Bo Pelini is a defensive kind of guy.

What has to be frustrating for Clemson fans is watching this offense at its finest, like on a critical fourth-and-4 in the fourth quarter when Harper threw a beautiful pass to Jacoby Ford to extend the drive, or the 41-yard touchdown pass over the top to Ford that showcased his blazing speed. Those were the kinds of plays fans hungered for as the Tigers mucked their way through the first half of the season with former coach Tommy Bowden.

Instead, it was the dropped balls, the inconsistency at quarterback, the offensive line, the coaching changes and the play calling that defined their season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It looks like Georgia Tech is nearing a new deal for the ACC Coach of the Year. The original seven years and an annual $1.6 million apparently didn't cut it after a win over Georgia. It's not like Paul Johnson is thinking about bolting, though. The Yellow Jackets' gain is Auburn's loss.

At the end of this story, you'll see that Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich is expected back for his senior season, and defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani would like to see him return.

NC State juniors Willie Young and Jamelle Eugene want to know their status and are submitting their names to the NFL draft advisory board.

Miami's defense faded down the stretch. Here's a look at what the Canes will have to work with in 2009. At the top of the list should be linebacker Sean Spence.

When I sat in Tommy Bowden's office in August and asked him about his young quarterbacks, he gave the impression that Kyle Parker was the one fans should be excited about. It looks like he might have been right, as Parker is expected to give Willy Korn some competition. That is, if baseball doesn't get in the way. Hey, if Russell Wilson can do it ...

2008 ACC regular-season wrap-up

December, 10, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

No conference compared to the ACC this season in terms of depth, competitiveness and unpredictability. The ACC redefined parity this season, as 10 of the 12 teams finished either tied for first or within a game of first, and an NCAA-record 10 teams are going to bowl games. The ACC had the lowest percentage of losing teams (2 of 12) in any conference in the history of college football.

For all of the chaos during the regular season, though, the ACC championship game reeked of familiarity, as Virginia Tech and BC met for the second straight season before a barely-there crowd, and the Hokies won their third ACC title in five seasons. Both teams epitomized the strength of the ACC this year -- defense.

More than half the league -- seven teams -- finished the regular season ranked among the nation's top 25 in total defense, including BC and Virginia Tech, which were both in the top 10. The offenses, though, struggled behind subpar offensive lines and inexperienced quarterbacks. There was an infusion of youth from Coral Gables to Chestnut Hill, and flashes of potential that should have ACC fans excited about the near future.

Two first-year coaches -- Paul Johnson and David Cutcliffe -- didn't need more than a year to make a difference.

 
 Kim Klement/US Presswire
 Mark Herzlich led the Eagles with 105 tackles and had 11 tackles for loss.
Cutcliffe gave the entire league a boost from the bottom-up, as Duke's four wins matched its win total from the past four seasons combined, and Georgia Tech's Johnson gained immediate respect for a nine-win season that included a road win at rival Georgia.

The league fared far better than many originally thought it would in the days after Clemson lost to Alabama, as the ACC went 6-4 against the SEC, its first winning record against the powerhouse conference since 2003.

Here are this year's awards for the ACC:

Offensive MVP

Georgia Tech B-back Jonathan Dwyer: He led the ACC with 110.7 rushing yards per game, but would have succeeded in any offense. He rushed for at least 100 yards nine times, and is tied for second in the ACC with nine touchdowns. He had 128 yards and two touchdowns in the first HALF of a critical Coastal Division win over Miami. Dwyer ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-42 win over rival Georgia.

Defensive MVP

Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich: On a team that relied so heavily upon its defense, Herzlich's playmaking abilities were invaluable to the Eagles. He returned two of his team-high six interceptions for touchdowns, and had two fumble returns -- both of which were in the ACC title game. Herzlich led the Eagles with 105 tackles and had 11 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and seven pass break-ups.

Newcomer of the year

NC State quarterback Russell Wilson: Wilson was the difference in the Wolfpack's turnaround, and the biggest reason they're in a bowl game. Wilson led NC State to four straight wins to end the season, and has thrown just one interception all season. In his last eight starts, Wilson has thrown 16 touchdowns and no interceptions, a national-best and school-record streak of 226 passes without a pick. Wilson leads the ACC in pass efficiency at 134.3.

Coach of the year

Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson: Not only does his offense "work" in the ACC, it beats the SEC, too. Johnson enters the Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU with a 2-0 record against the SEC, including the league's most impressive nonconference win, as he beat rival Georgia. His nine wins were the most by a first-year coach at Georgia Tech. He did it with an entirely new offense, a new defensive coordinator, injuries to 11 starters, and without the maximum 85 scholarships.

Biggest surprise

Boston College. Who would have thought that the Eagles would be playing for the ACC title in their first season without Matt Ryan, and without a proven running back? The Eagles lost their leading rusher and receiver from 2007, their punter and five starters on defense. BC was picked to finish fourth in the league and didn't get a single vote in the preseason Top 25. The Eagles lost five starters to injury en route to Tampa, including their quarterback.

Biggest disappointment

Clemson. In the beginning, the Tigers disappointed their own fans. In the end, they disappointed many college football fans by sneaking into the Gator Bowl with five losses. Preseason No. 9-ranked Clemson started the season 1-4 in the conference and lost coach Tommy Bowden along the way. The Tigers lost one of the better defensive coordinators in the league in Vic Koenning after his defense helped propel them to a bowl game.

Game of the year

Georgia Tech 31, Florida State 28 -- This game came down to the final minute, when FSU's Marcus Sims fumbled in the end zone, ending the Noles' four-game winning streak and their chances at what Bobby Bowden said would have been one of the best comeback wins of his career. It was Georgia Tech's first win over Florida State since 1975, and the Yellow Jackets ended a 12-game losing streak to FSU.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Dabo Swinney could be announced as Clemson's next head coach as soon as today, multiple sources told ESPN on Sunday.

 
 Rex Brown/Getty Images
 Dabo Swinney is 4-2 since taking over for Tommy Bowden.

It's too early to tell whether this is the right move.

All eyes will be on Terry Don Phillips on this one, not necessarily Dabo Swinney. This is Phillips' hire, and it needs to be his signature hire. He could have gone outside and gotten a much more experienced coach. Somebody like Bobby Johnson, or Jim Grobe. Heck, he could have even gotten somebody with prior experience as a coordinator, something Swinney never was before taking over for Tommy Bowden.

Clearly, though, he sees something in Swinney that gives him confidence.

Considering what Swinney has done, he should.

Swinney took over a program in absolute shambles. From preseason No. 9 to coachless in midseason and headed for disaster. He made the necessary changes, which at the time seemed rash, and they have proven to be the right moves. The offense is more effective without former offensive coordinator Rob Spence, but the offensive line also has something to do with that.

This team was 1-3 in the ACC after Swinney's first game as interim head coach, which was a 21-17 home loss to Georgia Tech. I was there for that. Aside from the pregame pagentry and Tiger Walk, it seemed as if little had changed besides the face of the program.

Swinney proved otherwise with his 27-21 road win over Boston College the following week. Since taking over for Bowden, Swinney has gone 4-2 and made the Tigers bowl eligible. That seemed impossible a month ago. And he had to beat rival South Carolina to do it.

So right now, he looks like a good choice for the job. It was a choice Phillips said would be "easy" if everything worked out the way he thought it would. It's like running a play out of the shotgun, though, on third-and-1 when you have James Davis on your roster -- it only looks good if it works, and when it doesn't, it's not the quarterback who takes the heat.

It's the man who called the play.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The potential that the Big 12's South Division representative will be picked by the Bowl Championship Series standings is bad enough.

The idea that the coaches' final vote that makes up that final regular-season poll won't be released is even worse.

John Rohde of the Oklahoman makes a compelling case why these votes must be released in a column today that reminds us of some of the more notable BCS votes by coaches last season.

For a point, look at the voting after last season's Big 12 championship, a day after the Sooners had dismantled Missouri and were on their way to the Bowl Championship Series. But we had these notable votes last season, according to Rohde.

  • Florida State's Bobby Bowden: Missouri at No. 6, Kansas at No. 7 and Oklahoma at No. 10.
  • Clemson's Tommy Bowden: Missouri at No. 5, Kansas at No. 6 and Oklahoma at No. 7.
  • Florida Atlantic's Howard Schnellenberger: Kansas at No. 2, Missouri at No. 4 and Oklahoma at No. 7.
  • Oregon's Mike Bellotti: Missouri at No. 5, Kansas at No. 6 and Oklahoma at No. 8.
  • Louisville's Steve Kragthorpe: Kansas at No. 5, Oklahoma at No. 8 and Missouri at No. 9.
  • Texas Tech's Mike Leach: Kansas at No. 3, Oklahoma at No. 4, Missouri at No 6.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops saw the fallacy of that vote and decided to drop out. But now, he doesn't have a vote and Leach and Texas coach Mack Brown do.

The worries are generated by a potential three-way tie for the South Division lead, which is a likely scenario if Oklahoma finishes the season with victories over Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, Texas Tech finishes by beating Baylor at home and Texas defeats Texas A&M in its season finale.

And do we really think that coaches, when bonuses are generated by Big 12 title game appearances and potential championships, aren't going to vote for their pocketbook? Particularly when the votes might be shielded from public scrutiny?

I don't know, but it doesn't seem to me to be a good situation.

As I self-righteously fulminate for a change in the Big 12's tiebreaking rules -- as I think most other clear thinkers would do, too -- let's take a look at some of today's Big 12 links.

  • Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News does a nice job in a story about Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill, an underrated element in the Red Raiders' recent transformation into a national power.
  • Josh Freeman said he's waiting until he finds out who will be Kansas State's new coach until he decides on declaring for the NFL Draft, the Topeka Capital-Journal's Austin Meek reports.
  • Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World Herald explains why a 7-5 Notre Dame team is more likely to end up in the Gator Bowl than an 8-4 Nebraska team, even with the Cornhuskers finishing stronger with a better record.
  • In the wake of president-elect Barack Obama's call for a college football playoff, Texas coach Mack Brown threw his support behind an eight-team playoff model, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Big 12 columnist Jimmy Burch writes.
  • Even struggling through a disappointing 4-7 season, Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman appeared for the Houston Touchdown Club's annual Texas-Texas A&M luncheon, the Houston Chronicle's David Barron reports. And the Chronicle's Jerome Solomon writes that Aggie fans are upset and Sherman knows it.
  • Sean Keeler of the Des Moines Register muses about Texas' proposed all-sports network, the possible return of Bill Snyder to the sidelines at Kansas State and reveals his Heisman Trophy ballot packed with Big 12 quarterbacks.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The prime topic of conversation this morning across the Big 12 was the abrupt dismissal of Kansas State coach Ron Prince after a coaching tenure of less than three seasons.  

Jeffrey Martin of the Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle broke the story Wednesday afternoon. The Wildcats' 52-21 loss to Kansas last week, he writes, played a significant role in his ouster.

Another factor was Prince's inability to be a factor in a North Division that is perceived to be at its weakest level ever. Two different North teams -- Nebraska and Missouri -- represented the division in the championship game in Prince's tenure. Cross-state rival Kansas is tied for the lead with Missouri heading into the this week's games.

"The reality is, if you coach in this business long enough, you understand this is a business where you're hired to win championships and to graduate your players," Prince said. "We had moments where we were very good and showed promise.

"We just were unable to win the North. That's ultimately what the expectations are for us and our ambition was coming here, and we were unable to achieve that."

And juicy rumors about the potential return of Bill Snyder after three seasons away from football held for the most speculation.

Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star writes that the return of Snyder to the sidelines of Bill Snyder Family Stadium makes sense. He says that Snyder, 69, is rejuvenated after his three-season sabbatical. He's 13 years younger that Joe Paterno and 10 years younger than Bobby Bowden and could be itching for a return to the spotlight, Whitlock wrote.

Veteran Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Lutz wrote that the strange timing of the dismissal by Kansas State athletic director Bob Krause made him dubious about the move, even if it was the right one. 

"Bob Krause has a plan. My immediate reaction, upon hearing that news, was to hide and cover myself with pillows and blankets," Lutz wrote.

Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman told Martin earlier this week that he would like to play all four seasons for the Wildcats and not turn pro early. That dismissal, Martin wrote, could change Freeman's mind about returning.  

The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff breaks down the likely list of replacements for Prince, whose two-plus year tenure is second-shortest in Big 12 history behind only Dave Roberts of Baylor.

Kerkhoff mentions potential replacements like Tommy Bowden, Phil Fulmer, Dennis Franchione, Tom Amstutz and Tyrone Willingham as potential hires, considering Krause's stated intention of hiring a head coach with experience to the job before the end of the season.

Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital Journal writes that Prince's legacy will include higher graduation rates, a bowl trip in his first season and two victories over top-10 Texas teams in his first two seasons.

"We're proud of going to a bowl game in our first season, which only four coaches have done in Big 12 history, inheriting a team with a losing record," said Prince, who is 16-18 at K-State. "That 7-5 record occurred despite being predicted preseason last place in the North.

"And finally, we understand how our 34-game record fits into the greater K-State history and how it matches up among our closest Big 12 peers in their early years."

But Meek also wrote about how pressure from fans and Kansas State boosters have complicated fund-raising efforts for the school's $70 million facilities expansion.

Omaha World-Herald Big 12 beat writer Lee Barfknecht wrote of how Prince's arrogance turned off many high-school and junior-college coaches in the area. He also said that Prince struggled with in-game transitions as evidenced by his 0-17 record in games when his team was trailing at the half.

Prince brought lofty expectations to the program and keeps them in place even as he's leaving the Kansas State program.

"Our objective is to go out, with the few days remaining, continue our preparation toward Missouri, go 6-6 and become bowl eligible," Prince said.

Whether the Wildcats would take that bowl trip and whether Prince would be coaching the team remains to be seen. But he's still focused on that goal as he finishes his tenure with the school.

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