Terry Bowden believes he is returning to Division I football after a 13 years away not just older but wiser.
The 54-year-old former Auburn coach was introduced Wednesday as the 27th coach at Akron. Bowden’s job is to restore a program with a rich tradition, state-of-the-art stadium, but a woeful record in recent years.
”Hold on to your hats, it’s going to be fun,” said Bowden, who took Auburn to an 11-0 record in 1993 and is 140-62-2 in 18 seasons at four schools overall.
The son of former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden is confident he can turn the Zips into consistent winners though he admits it will be a challenge. He replaces Rob Ianello, fired in November after consecutive 1-11 records the past two years with the Mid-American Conference school.
”The first thing is how are we going to dad-gum win two because we only had one last year,” Bowden said. ”We have got to get two to have one more. It’s going to take a lot to win, but we can have it and we will have it.
”When I went to Auburn they had won five and I said we had to win six. We won 20 straight.”
Bowden believes the Zips can be a force in the MAC, which sent five schools – Northern Illinois, Ohio, Temple, Toledo and Western Michigan – to bowls this year.
”There is a formula to be successful,” Bowden said. ”We will find it, find it in a hurry and compete in the MAC. You have to be a little bold in your presentation and get the players to invest in it. I believe I’m the right guy for the job, but it is not a one-man show.”
Bowden said it takes commitment from the school and community, but noted that University President Luis M. Proenza has eagerly supported athletics. Akron’s men’s soccer team won the 2010 Division I championship and Proenza enthusiastically backs all of the sports programs.
”This is a great day to welcome back Terry to Akron,” Proenza said in introducing Bowden, who coached quarterbacks at Akron under coach Gerry Faust in 1986. ”He brings an outstanding record of success and a true football pedigree.”
Athletic Director Tom Wistrcill said a nationwide search resulted in hundreds of applicants and that Bowden quickly rose to the top of the list.
Bowden’s immediate priorities are to hire a staff and recruit players in talent-laden Northeast Ohio.
”There’s not a better place to recruit,” Bowden said. ”From Youngstown to Akron to Cleveland, it has been that way a long time. The meat and potatoes players are right here. We might have to find a few gazelles. I’ll go to Florida for that.”
Bowden intends to run an up-tempo offense, but not at the expense of sacrificing defense.
”Defense wins championships,” he said. ”I would hope we would be relentless on defense.
”But I’ll be my own offensive coordinator. We’ll chuck the ball downfield and go. We are not going to be in a huddle. If I can get a snap up before the defense is ready every single play, we are going to do 85 snaps a game.
”The biggest thing, I want my players to have great enthusiasm.”
Bowden had unbridled energy in the mid-90s at Auburn, going 47-17-1 until resigning after a 1-5 start in 1998. He became a TV analyst before returning to coaching in 2009 at Division II North Alabama, going 29-9 and making the playoffs three straight years.
”I was disillusioned a bit,” Bowden said of his long absence from the sidelines.
Though he enjoyed his time in the broadcast studio, Bowden yearned to coach again. He was happy at North Alabama, but said a call from Akron thrilled him.
”This is a place on the verge of something special,” he said. ”I told them if you are interested in me, I’m interested in you because I want to be here. My goal is to build this program as far as we can go.
”I’m older and I think a little bit wiser. I can talk about this, talk about that. The only thing that changes anything is winning.”