LIGHTNING FLASHED, THE SKY turned a purplish gray, and rain fell
gently in Auburn. Outside the Tigers' locker room, 37-year-old Terry
Bowden, who was about to make his debut as an SEC coach, cast a wary
eye to the horizon while he waited for his father to arrive. ''I hope
the weather wasn't like this when he left Tallahassee,'' Bowden said.
''He wouldn't come then. He's nervous like me when he flies.''
Moments later the blinking blue light of a state trooper's cruiser
signaled the approach of 63-year-old Bobby Bowden, the coach of
Florida State. Father and son shook hands and soon split up, Terry
off to the locker room to rally his Tigers for Ole Miss, Bobby to a
trailer where he could do his radio call- in show before sitting down
to watch the game. It was 5:50 p.m. CDT, and in 70 minutes Bobby and
Terry would become the first father and son to coach Division I-A
football teams during the same season. ''Terry's done all the $
things it takes to get here,'' Bobby said. ''I think he's ready.''
Ready? ''Before the game Coach Bowden was sort of nervous,''
Auburn receiver Thomas Bailey said later. ''I think he went to the
bathroom about five times. Our whole team had to calm him down.''
As the sky cleared and the opening whistle blew, Terry was indeed
ready, and so were his Tigers, who downed Ole Miss 16-12 before a
crowd of 78,246. Utilizing a rock-solid defense that yielded only 47
yards on the ground and the jackhammer rushes of tailback James
Bostic (28 carries, 138 yards, one TD), Bowden nursed a 16-0 lead
into the fourth quarter, wisely resisting the urge to, as he put it,
''fancy it up'' like his pop.
This season's lid-lifter was filled with curiosities and question
marks for Auburn. Foremost among them: How would the NCAA probation
affect the team's performance? The payments made to ex-Tiger Eric
Ramsey by boosters and former team assistants put the Auburn football
program on probation for the fifth time since 1956, and the NCAA had
exacted a heavy toll: no bowl games for two seasons and no television
appearances for one -- a double whammy worth $3.5 million. But the
players swore the penalties imposed on Aug. 18 were far more
palatable than the cloud that the NCAA investigation had cast over
the program for 23 months. ''Now we can finally relieve some of that
stress against another team,'' said Tiger safety Chris Shelling.
In this case the other team had its own take on Auburn's
sanctions. Mississippi hoped to derive maximum national exposure from
the Thursday night game scheduled to air on ESPN, and since last
March, Rebel coach Billy (Dog) Brewer had been firing up his troops
for this game. But Auburn, which had a choice of taking its one-year
TV ban in '93 or '94, opted to put the stench of scandal behind it
quickly. So the Rebels were left in the dark, even in their home
state. ''That gives us a little extra motivation,'' said Ole Miss
safety Johnny Dixon.
Bowden, meanwhile, was uncertain about how motivated his players
would be for this game -- and how they would respond to him. He had
not only inherited a slumping team (5-6 and 5-5-1 the past two
seasons) but also the weighty mantle of his predecessor, Pat Dye.
Where Dye's voice rumbled like thunder over the Lee County plains,
Bowden speaks with the rapid-fire twang of a schoolboy on his first
date. Where Dye was physically imposing, the 5 ft. 6 in. Bowden won't
sit on the plush couch in his own office because his feet don't
reach the floor. Where Dye came across as a backwoods populist,
Bowden did his postgraduate work at Oxford -- not Mississippi, but
England. Where Dye had the grudging respect of archnemesis Alabama,
Bowden's pinchable cheeks had already earned him a dismissive
nickname from the Tide side: Buster Brown.
But it's not that handle that irks him. While he calls his kicker
and holder the karma kids, Bowden hates being called a New Age coach.
''Look, Bill Curry was supposed to be a New Age coach at Alabama, and
that didn't work out too well. The things I loved about football when
I played were the coach and what he meant to me -- the discipline,
the rigors, the toughness. I don't see myself being of a different
class, an intellectual or pseudointellectual who can't fit in.''
Still, Terry says that he'll never be the likable character Bobby
is. ''I'm more like my mother,'' he says. ''Push, push, push.''
Unlike his father, Terry tends to micro-manage things down to the
smallest detail. The one place he delegates authority completely,
however, is on defense. Heeding his father's advice, he retained
Dye's defensive coordinator, Wayne Hall, who had wanted to succeed
All Hall's unit did against Ole Miss was storm through the Rebel
offensive line, stuff the point of attack and sack Mississippi
quarterback Lawrence Adams three times. Auburn quarterback Stan
White, meanwhile, was rifling square-outs and tossing pitch-outs to
Bostic. In the second quarter on a fake reverse -- Bowden's gentle
nod to his father's fabled trickery -- Bostic broke a 56-yarder to
set up one of Scott Etheridge's three field goals. That trick play
aside, ''my favorite play is give me the ball, let me run with it,''
After the game the Tigers gave the game ball to Bowden and he, in
turn, handed it off to his own state trooper, who stashed it for the
coach in the trunk of his patrol car. A half hour later the blue
lights were blinking, and Terry Bowden was pulling out of Jordan-Hare
with his escort, his victory and his ball. He was officially on his
This is an article from the Dec. 17, 1993 issue