Don't mess with the old man

Special to Page 2

Editor's note: On Saturday night, ABC analyst and former Auburn coach Terry Bowden watched Florida State, coached by his father Bobby, roll to a 54-7 rout of Clemson, coached by his brother Tommy. Afterward, he shared his thoughts about the matchup with Page 2.

family feud 
Terry Bowden
The biggest thing my dad taught us when we were kids was how to compete and have fun competing.

We would go to the Panama City Beach, and Dad -- being the ex-quarterback -- would make me, Steve and Tommy run full speed into the water, and then he'd throw the ball so that we had to catch it just as we were getting hit by a big wave. You had to dive and take the hit right in the face. Whoever would catch the most passes would win. It was a pretty tough game. He was teaching us to compete, but also to have fun.

Bobby Bowden
Bobby Bowden, left, didn't go easy on son Tommy when Florida State started to pull away from Clemson in the second half.
I was reminded of this while I watched Saturday's game, because Dad really poured it on Tommy. He left the starters in right to the end. It was like Dad was still saying, "Tommy, I'm going to teach you how to compete, but remember, it's just a game." Nothing has changed in 35 years. Dad is still making us compete every inch of the way, but it is still just a game -- even if he beats you by 50.

I talked to my mom Sunday. She said she was sick about the game. She probably went into it afraid Clemson would play Dad's team too close. She wanted Florida State to win, comfortably. Just like Linda wanted her husband Tommy to win. But by the end of the game, Mom was worried Tommy's kids were going to get killed.

"I can't believe Bobby left the quarterback in and kept scoring against Tommy," she told me. "It wasn't fair to Clemson."

I went into the game hoping that whoever had the best chance to win the national championship would play as well as they could. Obviously, after Clemson lost last week to Georgia Tech, that would have to be Florida State. And the fact is that Florida State is a lot better than Clemson.

You aren't going to beat Florida State just because you want to. So, I'm glad Florida State beat Clemson. Although Miami beat Virginia Tech, Florida State did its best to hang in there and maybe move ahead of Miami in the BCS computer rankings. Some of the key factors -- like strength of schedule -- should favor Dad's team, especially if he can beat Florida on Nov. 18.

Tommy and I coached together, and we talk all the time. I'll just tell him that Clemson had gone about as far as it was going to go with its talent. They pushed the limit here. They really were not good enough to win it all.

Dad won because he had the best players. In fact, he has the best players in the country. It was not a matter of who did the better coaching job. If Tommy had Dad's players, and Dad had Tommy's players, Tommy would have won the game.

Tommy and I both worked for my dad. We want to get to where he is. But right now, he has the best program. Dad could always recruit. Once he started playing for championships, all the best players in the country wanted to come to Florida State. My dad could not get players like this 15 years ago.

My family is very close. We all get along. My dad wants all of us to succeed. But when it comes to playing a college football game, it's not about family. It's all about business. Florida State went out there and won the game as big as it could. Tommy has a great future. He is going to win a bunch of games at Clemson, but right now, today is about Florida State.

My dad will be 71 on Wednesday. He loves coaching. He is healthy and he is winning. I don't see him retiring any time soon. He is going to coach as long as he can win, as long as he has a chance to play for championships.

The lesson I took out of Saturday's game is this: My dad's not ready to give that up yet.

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