On the Mike: Sorry Tommy, the family's rooting for Dad

By Mike Diegnan

On the Mike: Sorry Tommy, the family's rooting for Dad


If No. 10 Clemson upsets No. 4 Florida State Saturday night (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET), it would be comparable to a child eating the last piece of cake reserved for his father, who was held up late at the office. Except when these 8-1 teams meet in Tallahassee, the son could be stealing it right underneath his father's nose.

The Bowden family wants Tommy Bowden and his Tigers to perform admirably in front of a national audience, but with the exception of those connected to Clemson, no one in the family really wants to see the Tigers shock FSU in Doak Campbell Stadium. Indeed, Clemson's loss last week to Georgia Tech has shifted the emphasis of Bowden Bowl II to Bobby Bowden's shot at another national championship. "After Tommy lost the game last week, it took some of the luster off of it (the game)," admits Ann Bowden, Bobby's wife of more than 50 years. "We have more at stake, and Bobby is on the tail end of his career and he's not going to be around much longer. I would like to see him finish up as well as he can, and Tommy has years to do that. "I have to accept what happens. If we do get beat, I have to be happy it was by our son." Ann is not alone. Winning is a Bowden trait. In the '90s, Tommy, Terry and Bobby all enjoyed perfect seasons. But with a championship on the line this Saturday, the Bowden family will not be split like last year when the game was held at Clemson and the feelings were new.
"Dad has a chance to win the championship. I don't want him to lose," says ABC college football analyst Terry Bowden, who is three years younger than Tommy. "He has a chance at the championship. If Tommy were undefeated, I would have been happy with either one of them. But right now, with Tommy having lost last week, Dad is in real good one-loss position. I have to pull for him in order to get into the championship game." Terry doesn't have any mixed emotions, but he'll be in New York, analyzing the game. Back in Florida, there'll be no fingernails left. "I may be the only person in my family that doesn't really have a side he or she pulls for a little bit more. I just have a ball with this one," says Terry, who predicts his brother Jeff, an FSU assistant, will be a head coach somewhere next season. "There's no downside from my standpoint. I'm sitting here as a TV analyst watching the No. 1 coach and maybe the No. 1 up-and-coming coach, and they happen to be a part of my family." Of course, Terry can enjoy it. He's not involved. But rumors have put Terry throughout the coaching landscape, most widely regarding North Carolina. A move to Tar Heel country would put him in direct competition with his father and brother in the ACC. That's a situation no Bowden wants.
"I just hope Terry doesn't get back into coaching," Ann says. "I would rather watch father and son compete than brother against brother because then I would definitely have to back off. Bobby is my husband, I have been married to him for a long time." But a father and son game isn't always fun. A year ago, Ann sat in the crowd with a sweatshirt split with both teams' logos. Before the game, she was concerned how a young Tigers team would play against top-ranked Florida State. It turned out to be FSU's toughest game, as the 'Noles couldn't pull it out until the game's final six minutes. This year, Clemson is much better, and Ann isn't sure if she will wear the sweatshirt in her box at Doak Campbell. With the family split for one day each year, she isn't even sure whether her daughter, Robyn, will sit with her. Robyn, whose husband Rick is the defensive backs coach for Clemson, has two tickets in the stadium and may prefer to sit there if one team takes control early. Ann, the mother of six and grandmother of 21, sees many similarities between father and son. She knows not to bother Tommy this week after Clemson's loss: "He's a lot like Bobby -- when he loses, he doesn't want to talk about it." It was the same way when Bobby and Florida State lost to Miami last month. "We hated to lose that Miami game," Ann says. "That stuck in craw, worse than anything. He (Bobby) hates to give up a game, and he feels like that was one we should have won. Miami deserved to win by the way they played that day, but it was a fluke -- by wide right. That's happened so many times down there, I guess." A loss to Tommy and Clemson could be even worse. It would eliminate any shot of playing in a third straight National Championship Game. "I love my son and with any mother, it breaks her heart to see her children disappointed or unhappy, but Tommy's young," says Ann Bowden. "He's just getting started. Even if he lost to us this week, he still would finish 9-2 if he beats South Carolina. We need the game a little more than they do." Mike Diegnan is the editor of BCSfootball.com.