COLUMBIA – Tommy Bowden is out as Clemson’s football coach.
Bowden and the school split Monday in the middle of his 10th season, which started with the Tigers ranked No. 9 and picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. But an opening 34-10 rout by Alabama and recent losses to Maryland and Wake Forest raised calls again for Bowden’s ouster despite a recent contract extension.
The school appointed receivers coach Dabo Swinney the interim head coach. A news conference was scheduled for Monday afternoon.
“I appreciate the opportunity Clemson University gave me and the support of the administration while I was here,” Bowden said in a statement released by the school. “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.”
He did not immediately return a message.
Clemson went 72-45 (43-32 ACC) and made eight bowl appearances under Bowden, who was honored as ACC coach of the year in 1999 and 2003. But the son of storied football coach Bobby Bowden seemed unable to meet expectations.
Bobby Bowden said Monday his son “felt like it was fixin’ to happen; he felt like it was inevitable.”
On Monday, Tommy Bowden had two meetings with athletic director Terry Don Phillips and “we agreed that this is the best solution for the direction of the program,” Bowden said in the statement.
An athletic department official told The Associated Press that Phillips first told Bowden that he expected the Tigers to play in the ACC title game, or changes would be made at the top of the football program. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity before the announcement, said Bowden met again with Phillips and told the athletic director that he should make the change now.
It was not immediately clear whether the school will have to buy out Bowden’s contract. Under the extension Bowden signed this year, which tied him to the school until 2014, Clemson would have to pay him $4 million if he was fired.
The departure ends a season of harsh criticism for Bowden, who on Friday announced he was switching quarterbacks from Cullen Harper to Willy Korn. The displeasure of the Tiger faithful was familiar.
In 2000, the Tigers started 8-0 and rose to fifth in the country, only to lose three of their final four games. Four years later, Clemson followed its nine-win 2003 with a 1-4 start.
Two years ago, the Tigers looked like the class of ACC. They opened 7-1, only to go on a 1-4 closing slide that included an unexpected, 13-12 home loss to Maryland.
Clemson won nine games last season and, with experienced skill players on offense, figured to be the league’s powerhouse this fall. Harper was picked this summer as favorite to win the ACC player of the year and the Tigers to win their first league crown since 1991.
“He’s thankful for the experience he got there at Clemson,” Bobby Bowden said. “He has no hard feelings towards them. This is just the nature of this game right now. He’s disappointed but he’s got his priorities in order in his life so he’ll move on and won’t lose a minute of sleep over it. At least I don’t have to worry about him beating me again.”