Terry Bowden still rooted in northeast Louisiana, but turns interests to outside of coaching

by William Weathers // GeauxPreps.com Contributor

Terry Bowden laughed at the thought of his wardrobe this fall.

When he shows up for work at Delhi Charter to implement the school’s JAG program – Jobs for Americas Graduates – the 68-year-old Bowden will do in the school’s orange and blue color scheme.

The school’s mascot? Gators.

“They have same exact logo as the Florida Gators,” Bowden chuckled. “I’ll proudly wear my hat and t-shirts around the school and my dad will roll over in his grave.”

Bowden’s famous father – Bobby Bowden – poured 33 of 44 years as a head coach into making Florida State one of college football’s most successful programs. It’s a place where Terry got his coaching start on his father’s coaching staff where annually the Florida Gators were among their fiercest rivals.

Delhi Charter, with an enrollment of 167 students in high school, will provide the backdrop for Terry Bowden’s next act and it won’t be on the sideline.

Contrary to several reports in the north Louisiana area following his ouster at UL-Monroe, the next phase of Bowden’s life will be without a whistle around his neck on a football field.

That responsibility has already been filled by Storm Ridgway at Delhi Charter, but with a resource such as Bowden on the same campus, it’s hard to imagine him not reaching out to the former coach college of 32 years, including 28 as a head coach, for advice.

Bowden’s invested in a business with some friends in Delhi which is home to Poverty Point Reservoir State Park and his favorite fishing spot. It will allow him the good fortune living in northeast Louisiana where he’ll remain active between the school’s JAG program in the morning and broadcast interests in the afternoons.

“I told coach Ridgeway if he wants me to hold chains at practice or chase balls, if I was able to be around, I’d be happy to do that,” Bowden said. “I’m going to continue to work with young people just like I’ve always done. It’s not in a coaching capacity. It’s just to help them coordinate that program.”

JAG’s a national program with an expressed desire to help provide job skills to high school students. It also offers support and transition a year after graduation, employment, post-secondary education or military service.

“It’s something I really want to continue to do,” Bowden said. “I’m going to coordinate it, implement it and work with the students and help them get jobs.”

Good, geographic fit

Bowden’s a native of Douglas, Georgia, played football at West Viriginia before embarking on a coaching career that for the majority of the time’s been spent in the southeast.

Besides Tallahassee, Florida, he’s coached at Samford in Birmingham, Ala. Auburn, Ala., North Alabama in Florence, Ala., a two-year stint as graduate assistant at Clemson before a three-year run at UL-Monroe.

He wanted to remain in the south where he’ll continue to experience all three seasons and with his business venture in Delhi, it was a natural fit in the rural community of less than 3,000 people in Richland Parish.

“At this point I wasn’t planning to go out and look for a job after coaching after ULM,” Bowden said. “My goal at ULM was to do the same thing I’ve done everywhere I’ve been which was turn programs around. It just ended a little earlier here.”

Bowden’s father provided the kind of example of servant leadership through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes that he wanted to emulate, the kind of opportunity he’s embracing with the JAG program at Delhi Charter.  

“When they approached me about this it seemed like it was right up my alley,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to do something like this. It’s a way to find jobs and help coordinate their future. You can teach them how to interview, make a resume’, how to prepare themselves for their future).

“It’s not like I’m 40 years old, looking for my next job”, he said. “I’ve been at six universities and have had a wonderful career. I had always planned around 70 to think about retirement and think about what I could do to help serve and try and help young people on some kind of basis.”

Graceful exit

Bowden will apply his background as a former coach and broadcaster as part of an arrangement with Sirius Network to conduct SportsGrid each week. That could also lead to daily radio shows or podcasts.

The ironic part of Bowden being included in discussions for a coaching job at Delhi Charter is that he’s never coached at the high school level.

Upon his playing career at West Virginia, Bobby Bowden had a spot on his staff waiting for Terry as a graduate assistant in 1982. By the time he was 26, Salmen hired him as its head coach where he signed Jimbo Fisher to play quarterback.

He ran his own programs at Salem and Sanford before reaching his first Power 5 conference job at Auburn in 1993.

Bowden was an instant hit Auburn and became the first coach in the school’s history to go undefeated in his debut year. He guided the Tigers to an 11-0 season but was ineligible for postseason play because of existing NCAA probation.

Bowden was voted the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, the winner of the Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant Award, Sporting News Coach of the Year, the Walter Camp Coach of the Year and SEC Coach of the Year.

He became the first coach in school history to lead Auburn to 20 consecutive victories and helped the Tigers to a 9-1-1 record in ’94, a trip to the SEC Championship Game followed in ’97 where they fell to Peyton Manning-led Tennessee.

The following season, a 1-5 start combined with crumbling relationships with Auburn’s powerbrokers, resulted in Bowden’s mid-season resignation and spawned a career in broadcasting that included ABC TV, Westwood One, Sirius Radio along with hosting a talk show in Orlando.

“My goal coming back was to help build programs,” Bowden said. “I’ve always had to move to situations where they weren’t successful. Auburn was bad, Samford was bad, Salmen was bad. Let’s go help programs develop and help young people.”

UL-Monroe experienced five non-losing seasons over a 27-year span, including eight straight, when it hired Bowden to lead the Warhawks’ rebirth in the Sun Belt Conference.

Instead, the program suffered consecutive 4-8 seasons followed by a 2-10 record last year, leading to Bowden’s dismissal last November.

“I don’t want to get old and get stale unless the bug hits me again in December to go coach; it would have to hit me pretty hard,” Bowden said. “I love Monroe, love the area,” Bowden said. “Sometimes it’s important to know how to be an ex-coach and that’s to exit gracefully and move on with your life.”