Terry Bowden faces scrutiny

Terry Bowden coaching from the sidelines at Nov. 5’s football game. Whether he will be there this next time next year is still unknown.

While many UNA fans hope for a win against Valdosta State during the final regular season game this Saturday, some speculate whether head football coach Terry Bowden’s job could be on the line if the team loses and misses its chance to go to the playoffs.

That decision has popped into minds of students and fans ever since the Lions fell to West Alabama two weeks ago.

The loss alone put the Lions in deep water just to make the post-season, and fans on Facebook and Twitter already started groups calling for Coach Bowden’s job.

Since the Lions won three straight national championships through the 1993-95 seasons, expectations to win at UNA are as big as it gets in Division II, as past coaches Bobby Wallace and Mark Hudspeth built the Lions into an elite program.

“Expectations are extremely high here at UNA, and fans expect nothing less than wins and playing for championships,” said senior quarterback Lee Chapple. “Coach Bowden and Coach Hudspeth before him have built those expectations here at UNA.”

In Bowden’s first year at UNA, the Lions lost a lot of players on the offensive side of the ball, and not much was expected from the team.

Bowden, however, coached the Lions to a 11-2 record and a birth to the Division II quarterfinals.

The following year, the Lions were in another rebuilding period with a new quarterback and a revamped defense, and the Lions took a step back, going 9-4 and making it to the second round in the playoffs.

Coming into this season with players returning from last season, including Chapple as quarterback, the entire core of running backs, and plenty of high-rated Division I prospects, expectations at UNA couldn’t have been higher. The Lions got off to a hot start with a win in Cowboys Stadium against perennial power Abilene Christian and received a No.1 ranking. The Lions then fell to No. 2 Delta State and lost to rival West Alabama in consecutive weeks, opening the door to possibly missing the playoffs with one game to go against Valdosta State.

“We have been in tough ball games all year, and we are a couple plays away from still being unbeaten,” Bowden said. “You don’t let pressure you can’t control play in our minds. What we can control is how we play in our games.”

Some people believe the team has underachieved so far and should be better.

“There have been a few times not only this year that the outcome should have come out different, and, with this team, it’s unacceptable,” said junior computer information systems major Chris Reece.

“It seems like at times coach Bowden is unable to get the best out of his players like a top-notch coach should be able to do,” he said.

Once the season ends, Athletic Director Mark Linder will be left with a decision to renew coach Bowden’s contract or go in a different direction.

“I meet with the coaching staff two weeks after the season, and we will talk about the previous year, were are we currently and how we can improve,” Linder said. “Every season has highs and lows for coaches, and in this sports business there is always room for improvement. We try to put the best resources out there for our coaches to succeed.”

Bowden and the Lions still have a chance to make the most out of the season by winning the next game and advancing in the post-season.

“We have heard some of the chatter from fans, but there is nothing we can do but go out and perform,” Chapple said. “Who knows? We could win the rest of the games, including the championship, and people will forget about all of this.”