Who would have ever thought in the middle of northeast Ohio, just south of Lake Erie along the Little Cuyahoga River, they would be speaking countrified, Southern-fried, bonafide Bowden?
The new marketing motto to get fannies in the seats at the University of Akron blares out to fans, "Buy Your Dadgum season tickets now!" The hottest new T-shirt on campus has a picture of the Zips mascot — Zippy the Kangaroo — with the slogan: "Fear the Dadgum Roo." Even the marching band has a promotional video with the mantra, "Fear the Dadgum Tuba."
"It's all a matter of perspective," says Terry Bowden, new head coach at Akron, as he and his team prepare to host UCF in Thursday night's college-football opener. "If you're from New York, a Southern accent sounds stupid. If you're a college-football fan, a Southern accent sounds smart because it means you come from a place where they love college football. When I came up here, they liked the fact that I am from SEC territory."
As the son of Bobby Bowden, he's also from FSU territory and has turned Akron into Florida State Midwest. His defensive coordinator is Chuck Amato, the longtime defensive-line coach at FSU. His wide-receiver coach and top offensive assistant is his brother Jeff, the former offensive coordinator at FSU. His defensive-backs coach is former FSU All-American Terrell Buckley. His defensive-line coach is former FSU nose guard and ex-strength coach Todd Stroud.
"We're sort of the last of the Bobby Bowden bunch who run with the Bobby Bowden philosophy," Terry says.
Not a bad philosophy to adhere to, considering Bobby is the winningest and greatest coach in major college-football history. What's continued to baffle me for quite some time is why Terry himself, the best of Bobby's coaching sons, has not landed a bigger, better job.
He has won at every level of college coaching. He's the guy who gave Jimbo Fisher and Will Muschamp — the head coaches at Florida State and Florida — their first jobs in the business.
He's the is a guy who took the job at Auburn as the youngest coach in major college football and promptly led the Tigers to 20 straight victories.
He was offensive whiz kid who outcoached Spurrier when Spurrier was Spurrier. He was the first Auburn coach in history to have a winning record against Alabama. He was 47-17-1 at Auburn — still the highest winning percentage in Tigers' history for a coach with at least five years on the job — before being run out by the school's out-of-control boosters.
He was so disenchanted by the Auburn experience that he got out of coaching, moved to Orlando and became a college-football TV analyst and sports-radio personality. His ex-wife and two children still live here.
He stayed out of coaching for a decade and finally, when he turned 50, he made the ultimate career decision. He got the itch once again and decided he just had to pursue his coaching passion one last time.
He took the only job he could get at Division II North Alabama, where he spent three years and compiled a 29-10 record. Now he's back in Division I — albeit at the very rock bottom of college football's biggest classification.
With all due respect to Akron, its program might just be the worst in all of major college football over the last few years. The Zips have endured six straight losing seasons, including back-to-back 1-11 records over the last two years.
Fear the Dadgum Roo?
Boo the Dadgum Roo would be a much more appropriate mantra.
"This program has been so down," Bowden says. "This is the perfect program for the future, but right now the only dadgum thing I can't guarantee is us surviving the game Thursday night against UCF."
Spoken like a true Bowden.
Except the catfish-and-hushpuppies twang is emanating from the most unlikeliest of places:
Akron, Ohio — the home of rubber factories, LeBron James and the last of Bobby's dadgum disciples.
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