During my years as a studio analyst for college football on ABC Sports, there was one thing that my co-host, John Saunders, used to always tell me: "Be thankful every day that you're not an over-the-shoulder."
He was talking about the picture-in-picture headshots that appear on the screen, over the announcer's shoulder while they're breaking a big – and often bad – story.
Monday, my brother Tommy (Bowden) was the over-the-shoulder, and I know exactly what John was talking about. Tommy agreed to resign as the coach at Clemson after a disappointing 3-3 start to a season that was supposed to lead to the ACC title.
It is not easy to watch anyone go through such an ordeal, but when it is a family member, it makes it that much tougher.
It is at times like this when people wonder if you can be objective as an analyst. We are a close family, and Tommy and I are less than two years apart. We have shared bedrooms and little-league teams. We have fought with each other a little, and laughed together a lot.
When I went to Auburn in 1993 as the coach, Tommy already was on the staff there. I asked him to stick around and be my offensive coordinator. That is not an easy thing to do, especially when you are the older brother and you come from a family where there is an accepted hierarchy about how things like that are supposed to happen. Tommy sucked up his pride and helped us go undefeated in our first season. Then he watched with pride, from the background, while I was awarded national coach-of-the-year honors.
Two years later, Tommy accepted the coaching job at Tulane, and immediately began to turn that program around. Then, in 1998, while I was going through one of the darkest years of my life - having resigned at Auburn in midseason - I was able to watch with pride as he led the Green Wave to a 12-0 season.
None of this makes a bit of difference in the Clemson situation, except to show you how close we are as brothers and how difficult it is for me to write about this. I can honestly say that I thought Clemson would beat Wake Forest last week and climb back into the race for the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers still have as much talent as anyone in the conference, and I surmised that as soon as they had a little success on offense, the confidence would come back and they would get on a roll.
But they didn't have enough success and the confidence didn't come back. And for the 10th consecutive season, Clemson most likely will not win the conference championship.
So, did Tommy Bowden deserve what happened to him Monday?
He deserved it because he, of all people, knew what to expect when he got into this business. We grew up in it.
He knew what to expect when he went to Clemson. He knew that no matter where you go, there is an expectation of success that must be met. After nine years at Clemson, he knew exactly what those expectations were and he knew they had not been met.
Clemson expects to win the conference championship once in a while – and they should. After 10 years of falling short, they deserve the right to try to find a coach they believe can get them there.
One of the neatest comments I ever heard my brother make was his response to a reporter's question: "What was the most important thing you learned from your father about coaching?"
Tommy's reply: "The most important thing I ever learned from my dad was how to act like a head coach."
Monday, it was time to move over and allow Clemson to move on.
And in his final over-the-shoulder, after it became clear he would no longer be a head football coach, Tommy Bowden still remembered how to act like one.