COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -Tommy Bowden and athletic director Terry Don Phillips had discussed Clemson's high expectations, its disappointing play so far and the prospects for improvement.
That's when Bowden stunned his longtime boss with these words Monday: ``Let me just run something by you and see what you think.''
Bowden then outlined his choice to leave with the Tigers at 3-3, hopefully ending what surely would've been at least a month and a half of critical fans, picked apart decisions and lingering questions about the coach's future.
Phillips could do little else but agree, closing out Bowden's 9 1/2 seasons as coach.
``I wasn't expecting him to put that on the table,'' Phillips said.
d rules and offering those who didn't accept the chance to leave and have their scholarships honored.
``If you show up on that practice field,'' he told them, ``you'd better be all in.''
That's what Clemson fans are clamoring for after a half-season of monumental disappointment.
The Tigers entered the season No. 9 and the clear choice to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. Almost from the start, things fell apart.
Clemson lost its opener in embarrassing fashion, 34-10, to Alabama on national TV and fell completely out of the poll.
The team appeared to regain its footing when it won its next three games. But consecutive anemic losses to Maryland and Wake Forest had fans calling for Bowden's job.
An offense led by the top three favorites for ACC player of the year - QB Cullen Harper and the ``Thunder and Lightning'' backfield of James Davis and C.J. Spiller - accounted for just seven points in its last six quarters of play.
This past Friday, Bowden benched fifth-year senior Harper and said freshman Willy Korn would start Saturday's game with Georgia Tech. Even that drew criticism.
Bowden never spoke directly to Harper about the move, instead leaving a message. The move, Harper said, didn't sit well with many Tiger upperclassmen.
to and we weren't getting the results,'' Harper said. ``When that happens, you're going to lose some people.''
About an hour after getting the job, Swinney dismissed the team's offensive coordinator Rob Spence, another target of fan criticism.
``This is a situation where if you're going to have a fresh start, it's just kind of a time for change and to move in a different direction,'' Swinney said. ``That's what it boiled down to.''
Swinney promised he, his staff and players would approach the next six games full out and wide open. ``You're looking at a coach with nothing to lose,'' he said.
The reactions of Clemson players ranged from sadness to shock to acceptance. Tailback James Davis broke down in tears when he talked about Bowden. Center Thomas Austin was surprised such a move was made at midseason.
Quarterback Harper backed away from comments on earlier Monday that the longtime coach deserved his fate.
``You never wish that upon anybody,'' Harper said.
Bowden ``was one of the reasons I came to Clemson,'' Harper continued. ``I wish the best for coach Bowden. I hate that it had to come to this. But we're going to move on and we'll be fine.''
Swinney said Korn would indeed start Saturday's game, as Bowden announced last week.
Bowden's replacement immediately.
Swinney isn't looking at his time as a six-game audition, but the chance for Clemson's players to complete the special season they expected when the year began.
``There's a lot of things still on the table for this team,'' Swinney said.
Swinney and newly promoted quarterbacks coach Billy Napier will handle playcalling. There were no details on possible changes to Clemson's offense.
Bowden joined Phillips at a late afternoon news conference. He thanked administrators, assistants and fans as his eyes watered. Then, without taking questions, he said farewell to Phillips and disappeared behind the door of his former office.
Phillips praised Bowden for his success and the generally upstanding program he ran. But Phillips was no different from most Clemson fans in expecting that this year's team had a prime opportunity to win the ACC.
``We both understood the conference championship was critically important,'' Phillips said.
Bobby Bowden said Monday his son ``felt like it was fixin' to happen; he felt like it was inevitable.''
Perhaps that led to Tommy's offer to leave, no matter how difficult it may have been.
``Clemson has been very good to me and my family,'' said Bowden, 72-45 with the Tigers.
l be their biggest fan on Saturday.''

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