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Death Valley Dilemma

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - All summer long, the buzz from the ACC was that they had a bona fide national title contender in Clemson. Fast forward a few short months and an underachieving team is looking for new direction, as Tommy Bowden was unceremoniously let go by the institution in his 10th year at the helm. It wasn't like Bowden failed to win football games. He had a solid 72-45 record in his tenure in Death Valley. However, the fact that he didn't win the right games was likely his undoing.

Sure, his body of work on the surface portrayed a winning coach. Bowden leaves as Clemson's third all-time winningest coach and he has never posted a losing campaign, including his two seasons at Tulane. However, he was just 43-32 in ACC play and although he never had a losing season in-conference either, he never led the team to an ACC crown.

The Tigers have come into many a season with high aspirations, only to see those lofty goals all but disappear by season's end. This year was no different.

The hype machine started working at maximum capacity in July, as Clemson was everyone's preseason pick to win the ACC, and with good reason. The team possessed what looked to be a scary offense, led by Preseason Player of the Year Cullen Harper under center. The team also had one of the nation's best backfield duos in James Davis and C.J. Spiller, as well as a blossoming stud receiver in Aaron Kelly.

Tommy Bowden was unceremoniously let go by Clemson in his 10th year at the helm.
So what exactly went wrong?

It started with a beating on national television by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the season-opener. It wasn't so much that the Tigers lost the game, but the manner in which they fell that set the table for Bowden's dismissal.

The Tigers rallied a bit from that 34-10 whipping, although wins over teams like the Citadel (45-17), South Carolina State (54-0) and a struggling NC State program (27-9) were nothing to boast about. However, the favorite to win the ACC dropped its next conference game at home, falling to Maryland (20-17).

That was enough for the powers that be at Clemson, as they sent out an ultimatum to Bowen -- beat Wake Forest on October 9th, or that is it.

Well, the Tigers failed to earn the victory, falling to the Demon Deacons 12-7. The Clemson brass were true to their word, and Bowden is no more.

The school and Bowden officially parted ways on Monday of this week, something that was certainly not unexpected by 10-year coach.

"Terry Don Phillips approached me this morning and we agreed that this is the best solution for the direction of the program," said Bowden. "Clemson has been very good to me and my family. Both of our children are Clemson graduates."

"I appreciate the opportunity Clemson University gave me and the support of the administration while I was here. I also want to thank all the players and coaches who worked so hard for this program the last 10 years.

"I wish Clemson University nothing but the best in the future."

No tears should be shed for Bowden, who will be well-compensated after coming to terms with the school on his departure.

Dabo Swinney will step on an interim basis. Swinney was in his sixth year as Clemson's wide receivers coach and his second as the assistant head coach. Swinney was a big part of the Clemson's success passing the ball the last couple of years.

One player that is probably happy with that is the team's All-ACC signal- caller. It was announced after the Wake Forest loss that redshirt freshman Willy Korn would take over under center for the experienced, but struggling Harper.

A move by Bowden that seemed a bit desperate, considering Harper has all but re-written the record books at Clemson in his time under center.

Harper has not lit up the world this season, completing 61.5 percent of his passes, for just 1,121 yards, with four TDs and six INTs, but he certainly gives Clemson the best chance to win football games the rest of the way.

A fresh start could be just what the Clemson offense needs, as Swinney has recently announced that offensive coordinator Rob Spence is no longer with the team and he himself will take over the play-calling duties and serve as the offensive coordinator the rest of the way.

He will need to work magic this week in Death Valley, as the Tigers will be without the services of Spiller (hamstring). In addition, Harper will need surgery to repair a fracture in his shoulder. Harper hasn't decided when he will have the surgery, and insists he is available if needed this weekend.

Swinney has been given an opportunity here to showcase his abilities running the whole program, but short-handed, it seems like a tall task indeed.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Haynes

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