January 1, 1997
Tommy Bowden has a message for the Tulane community. "I'm looking forward to giving them something to be proud of in football. A school like Tulane, with a tremendous academic reputation...I want them to see football achieving the same recognition. "Everybody benefits when that happens." Confident. Maybe a bit cocky. Charming. Iron-willed. And very determined to be successful. Bowdenball has begun.
On Dec. 11, Bowden became the 38th head coach in the 103-year history of the Tulane football program, replacing Buddy Teevens, who was let go Nov. 21 after five losing seasons with the Green Wave. Walking into his first media interview on campus, Bowden's first words were, "I'm ready to go to work." He moved into his Wilson Center office that day and will not be on the sidelines for the Dec. 31 bowl game for Auburn University, where he has served as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach for the past six years.
Unabashedly oriented to the offensive side of the ball--he also served as offensive coordinator at Duke and Kentucky--he promises fans both new strategy and excitement. "I'm going to give them a good product," he says. "If we lose, I want to lose 43-42, not 13-10." But "lose" is not what you'll be hearing from Bowden; "win" is his favorite word. "The only way to advance in my profession is winning--combine graduating football players and winning. I have to win and maintain the academic integrity of the school. Find the balance," he says.
Winning "puts people in the stands," Bowden adds, and he believes Tulane, despite its most recent 2-8 season, is close to being on the winning side, being near victory in a number of games. "Buddy Teevens laid the foundation; now we have to take it to the next level." To get to that level, athletic director Sandy Barbour plotted a careful strategy in seeking out Bowden.
Her wish list for the new coach was someone "widely recognized as technically competent" and with integrity; someone with a proven track record in recruiting; and someone who could balance academic and athletic priorities for student-athletes. "In this hiring I think we have a 'have-it-all' kind of football coach...who will return excitement to the Superdome on Saturday night," Barbour said.
Bowden, who did his own research on Tulane prior to accepting the job, said he liked what he saw. A key factor in his choice is that he believes Tulane has the capability to win in Conference USA. He also has a plan for getting those wins, partly based on Bowden family football philosophies that have been successful for his brother, Auburn coach Terry Bowden, and father, Bobby Bowden, coach of top-ranked Florida State.
"I know a system from five decades of success. I've seen it work in all divisions; I've just been looking for a place to plug it in, with a chance to compete," Bowden adds. Campus officials who were involved in the interview process were impressed with what he had to say. "He's a perfect fit for us," said Gary Roberts, faculty athletic representative. "He seems very aware and sensitive about academic issues. He has solid coaching credentials and comes from a family who knows nothing but success."
Rick Marksbury, University College dean, said Bowden's strong Gulf South connections should be an immediate boost for Tulane recruiting. Recruiting, in fact, is the first big hurdle for Tulane's new coach. He plans to "start with a wall around New Orleans" to capture local talent, search Louisiana and then neighboring states for the right kind of recruits.
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