Clemson players relieved

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CLEMSON, S.C. --- Clemson center Thomas Austin spent most of Monday night at the library. So when classmates frantically asked him the next morning if Tigers coach Tommy Bowden was off to Arkansas, Austin barely knew what to say.

"It definitely catches you by surprise," Austin said. "They were asking me about it and I had no idea."

Turns out, Austin didn't have to worry long. After a couple of quick text messages to teammates, the Tigers sophomore learned Bowden had agreed to stay at Clemson.

"We're excited about that," Austin said Thursday. "It really says that they're going to stand behind our program and they're going to take us into the future."

The 15th-ranked Tigers (9-3) start practice Saturday for their Chick-fil-A Bowl matchup with Auburn (8-4).

Earlier in the week, there was serious doubt about who might be leading the Tigers into the Georgia Dome on New Year's Eve.

Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips had announced more than a week ago that a contract extension for Bowden was coming. But the school also gave Arkansas' new AD, Jeff Long, permission to speak with Bowden, his friend.

On Monday, TV and Internet reports said Bowden was a serious candidate for Razorbacks' job that coach Houston Nutt left for Mississippi in November.

"Anytime talk like that comes up, you hold your breathe because you don't know what to expect," Austin said. "For the talks to kind of subside was definitely a sigh of relief."

Bowden and the school agreed to an extension that ties him to Clemson through 2014.

Bowden wouldn't say how much his raise was, although reports of a package as much as $2 million have been "grossly, grossly exaggerated," he said.

He said he didn't use Arkansas' interest to sweeten the deal.

"I think when you use it as leverage, you go initiate or your agent initiates the move and then you use it," Bowden said. "I did not initiate."


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