Tuesday, October 14, 2008
No Tears for Tommy Bowden
I received an interesting email since the resignation of Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden. The gist of the email encouraged me to not support Clemson football. I have no problem with that. As a South Carolina and Georgia Tech fan, supporting Clemson football is not one of my problems.
However, I do have a problem with how the Bowden situation was handled. After all, Clemson is a public university. As such it should be held accountable.
At the end of last season, one which my Clemson friends say was a disappointing one to them; Clemson University officials inked a contract extension with Bowden that basically rewarded him for not going to Arkansas to coach football. (What is it with Arkansas wanting former Clemson coaches?) Part of that insane extension was a multi-million dollar buyout in the first couple of years of the contract.
Indeed, according to Clemson’s Athletics Director at his Monday press conference, Tommy Bowden will be paid as head coach until November 30th. Then, Bowden will be paid $3.5 million over the next six years. Instead of welfare, call it coachfare.
My Clemson friends have griped all season along about how Bowden appeared to not really care or be upset on the sidelines as his team was not performing well. Frankly, why should he? Frankly, what motivation did Bowden have financially to work hard and do well? Think how crazy it is. Imagine if your employer told you, “ look, we like you and we want to have you here, but if you mess up your job and we have to part ways, we will give you a few years salary.” If a report does not go well, or your machines are not working up to par, or you lose a customer or two, you really don’t care. You are taken care of.
What gripes me is that the vast majority of us in the real world do not have such a deal. Further, Clemson students do not get that deal. With the state budget in a crunch, plans are on the table at Clemson and at other state colleges and universities to raise tuition on its students. It is a striking statement of Clemson’s and our values. Clemson, not unlike any other major public university, can find a way to raise millions to pay a football coach not to work, but can not find money, except from its students and the taxpayers, to fund its core mission.
So, forgive me if I do not cry for Tommy Bowden. The man is going to be paid more not to work than most people are paid their entire lives of working. As much as I love college sports, the Bowden situation at Clemson is another example of how college sports are out of control.
I will end with an ironic side note. The football coach who has won more major college games than any other works for one of the lowest salaries in the game and without a contract. That coach is Penn State’s Joe Paterno. His team is undefeated and ranked # 3 in the land. Of course, at 81, Paterno is one of those coaches from the time that the game was golden. Bear Bryant would not have taken a dime if he could not get the job done. Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd would not have taken a dime not to work. Vince Dooley gave a huge portion of the money he made back to University of Georgia. The list could go on.
But, alas, those old coaches, like their old business counterparts, who placed more value in getting the job done than making a quick buck, are gone. If you are going to shed tears, shed them not for Bowden, but shed them for what a once noble game that once was about shaping character and promoting values has become.