I can't say I feel terribly sorry for Tommy Bowden, who abruptly parted ways with Clemson in the middle of his 10th season Monday. This ends Bowden's tumultuous, on-again, off-again relationship with the school -- the long-rumored divorce has finally come through.
But this is what you sign up for when you coach Clemson. The Tigers' rabid fan base believes it should be at the level of an SEC powerhouse like Georgia or LSU or Alabama -- a Top 10 or 20 team every year, with a national championship thrown in about every decade. And the Tigers are willing to pay their football coaches extremely well for putting up with all this. There are good and bad sides to rabid fan bases -- they fill stadiums and they pay you millions, but they expect big trophies in return.
Bowden's nine previous teams never won an ACC championship at Clemson, and this 3-3 version wasn't going to do that, either. Bowden had saved his job several times late in the season -- usually by beating South Carolina -- but this time he won't get that chance. It's apparent that Clemson's program isn't at the level of, say, Wake Forest, which has got to rankle all those who bleed orange.
The main reason I don't feel real sorry for Bowden is that Clemson now owes him millions, apparently, due to his buyout clause. Bowden signed a contract extension at Clemson, remember, in December 2007 after nearly taking the Arkansas head-coaching job. In this down economy, a ton of people are losing jobs without the benefit of anything near that sort of golden parachute.
Bowden will coach again if he wants to. Or he could go into TV work like his brother Terry -- he's got the quick wit and the looks for that.
And who will Clemson hire? Dabo Swinney, the very low-profile interim coach, will have to have a spectacular end of the season to get the job permanently. I would have said East Carolina's Skip Holtz a few weeks ago, but the bloom has fallen off that rose. Who knows, really? The Tigers may just end up pulling off what UNC did with Butch Davis. By having an early and high-profile coaching vacancy, they could beat the Christmas rush and grab somebody very good.
Whoever it is, he will be paid extremely well. And he better win.
3 months ago