The University of Akron has found the man to assume the reins of its football program.
The university announced Thursday that Terry Bowden, son of Florida State coaching legend Bobby Bowden, is the Zips’ new football coach.
The university won’t hold Bowden’s introductory news conference until 5 p.m. Wednesday, but he has agreed to a contract worth $1.875 million for five years.
“I’m so excited to be a Zip,” Bowden said in a news release. “With the great resources and the commitment to winning by the administration and community, it’s just a matter of time until we build a championship program.”
His selection came out of the blue given that speculation centered on others, including Paul Winters, a former Zips assistant coach and player who withdrew his name earlier this week; and Scot Loeffler, a Barberton native and current Temple University offensive coordinator who declined the job, according to one report.
Bowden’s hiring gives instant credibility to a UA program that has been stuck in neutral for years, including the past two under former coach Rob Ianello. Bowden has the name and the credentials to provide what is a much-needed lift to a comatose UA football program.
He also has ties to the program, however brief they were. Bowden served as quarterbacks coach under former coach Gerry Faust in 1986 before moving on to become coach at Samford University.
“He’s a great human being and an excellent football coach,” Faust said by phone at his home. “He’s an excellent X’s and O’s man, and he’s great with quarterbacks. He was our quarterbacks coach, and he did an excellent job with them. He’s a great recruiter, and he represented the university well when he was here.”
Bowden will leave his current position coaching North Alabama in Florence, Ala., where he compiled a 29-9 record and three consecutive appearances in the Division II playoffs. He recently signed a one-year extension to continue at the school.
According to several reports, Bowden has been looking to return to head an Football Championship Subdivision program. UA provides him with an opportunity to put his stamp on one that many view as having an abundance of untapped potential despite going 2-22 under Ianello. Ianello reached a contract settlement with UA for $250,000 on Wednesday, and he is reportedly going to be an assistant on Charlie Weis’ staff at Kansas.
Bowden has been successful everywhere he has coached. At Akron, that could be a challenge, and he will face it immediately. Among his tasks will be to solidify a recruiting class and deal with the loss of the team’s best player, inside linebacker Brian Wagner.
Wagner, a junior, completed his degree and asked to be released from his scholarship, a university spokesman said. He was given that release Dec. 12. He can either play at another college for his senior year while attending graduate school or he could remain at the university.
Plenty of accomplishments
Bowden’s resume suggests that he will be able to do at UA what he has accomplished elsewhere. He turned the program around at Samford, taking it from a Division III status to Division I-AA and compiled a 46-22-1 record before leaving for Auburn. He arrived at Auburn in 1993 and in his first year, the Tigers, who were under NCAA sanctions at the time, were undefeated at 11-0. He went on to post a 47-17-1 record from 1993-1998.
It is that success, or the prospect of it, which might put people in the seats at InfoCision Stadium. Reaction on the Internet from Zips fans has run the gamut from disbelief to overwhelming acceptance.
“I think he’ll do a fine job. If anybody can do it, he can do it,” Faust said. “I think the program has a lot going for it. They’ve got phenomenal facilities now. They can match anyone in the country in facilities.
‘‘They have an excellent administration that realizes the importance of athletics and what it can do for a school public relations wise and name wise.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at http://zips.ohio.com. Follow the Zips on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Zips_ABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.