Originally created 10/25/98

Questions still linger about why Terry Bowden abruptly resigned



AUBURN, Ala. -- The day after Terry Bowden walked away from his job, questions still lingered about why one of Auburn's most successful football coaches would quit only hours before a football game.

Bowden remained publicly silent Saturday about his abrupt resignation from a school where he had enjoyed phenomenal early success, with a record of 47-17-1 in his sixth season, and had described as "the place I want to end my career."

On Saturday, three hours before the Tigers' game against Louisiana Tech, athletic director David Housel denied that Bowden was forced out amid Auburn's worst start. The Tigers were 1-5 before beating Louisiana Tech 32-17 Saturday.

"There's not one person here at Auburn who wanted Coach Bowden to not finish out the season," Housel said. "If you want to take that and look past the `finish the season part', you are going further than anyone here at Auburn has gone."

But a sense of uncertainty swirled around the state, where Auburn and Alabama football can dominate a fall Saturday and where the triumphs and travails of the 42-year-old Bowden were widely followed.

Auburn Sports Information Director Kent Partridge said Bowden had told him "I don't much like people right now," and speculated that the coach was probably at his lake house on Saturday "having nothing to do with football."

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said his son had told him as early as Wednesday that he was considering resigning. "I think it was a `leave now or get fired at the end of the year' situation," the elder Bowden said.

Meanwhile, Auburn assistant Bill Oliver, who took the reins at Auburn on Saturday on an interim basis, is a coach who has always stayed in the background.

The 58-year-old Oliver was an assistant in the shadows of Bear Bryant at Alabama, Danny Ford at Clemson, Bowden and former Alabama coach Gene Stallings, seeming to prefer being just on the edge of the intense spotlight that goes with a major college coaching job.

His one experience as a head coach was 1980-83 at Tennessee-Chattanooga. After that, he returned to the post of defensive coordinator where he has excelled, but was passed over when head coaching jobs came open at Alabama and Auburn.

Bobby Lowder, the Auburn trustee who was instrumental in hiring Pat Dye in 1981 and Bowden in 1993, spoke approvingly of Oliver finishing the season as the Tigers' head man.

"He has a chance to demonstrate on the Auburn football field," Lowder told the Birmingham Post-Herald. "That's a tremendous advantage. I'd say he has a great opportunity."

Oliver, a native of Epes in rural west Alabama, played for Bryant at Alabama, winning a national championship in 1961, his senior year. After a few years of high school coaching, he took his first college post -- at Alabama's cross-state rival Auburn, in charge of defensive backs.