Football, family and fashion unite ULM’s Bowden and Southern Miss’ Hall

NEW ORLEANS – Things will be a little different on the sidelines this Saturday as the ULM and Southern Miss meet on the gridiron in Monroe. Unlike most college football games of our time, both of the competition’s head coaches wear ties.

Southern Miss head coach Will Hall and ULM head coach Terry Bowden have been known to eschew today’s trend of polos and khakis on the sidelines. As the sons of two of the most successful coaches in football history, they both have a great deal of respect and reverence for the game.

Hall, in his second season as head coach of the Golden Eagles, is the son of Bobby Hall, Mississippi’s second-best high school football coach of all time. Bobby Hall won 310 games, including four state championships, during his storied career and is a member of the Mississippi Association of High School Coaches Hall of Fame.

“My dad wore a tie on the sidelines and I always said if I ever got a head job I would do it out of respect for him but also for a lot of the greats of all time who did it back then,” Hall said Monday.

Bowden is the son of legendary Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, who has won 377 games with two national titles, 21 bowl wins and 12 Atlantic Coast Conference crowns in his 44-year career as an NCAA football coach.

The younger Bowden began wearing a tie when he became head coach at Auburn, following in the tradition of legendary predecessors Shug Jordan and Pat Dye.

“I started my coaching career 40 years ago,” Bowden said. “When I went to Auburn in 1993, I wore a tie to every game, as did the coach before me and the coach before me.”

After leaving Auburn in 1998, Bowden spent 10 seasons as a studio football analyst at ABC. When he returned to coaching in 2009, first in North Alabama and then in Akron, Bowden did not wear a tie, opting instead for school-logo sweaters. But when he became ULM’s head coach in 2021, Bowden began donning his traditional attire again.

“I got away from it, but when I came to ULM I said this was my last stop,” Bowden said. “I want to see if I can help build this program. I don’t know if it’s nostalgic, but I just felt like it [wearing a tie] was what I wanted to do.

“When you’re my age, you can dress however you want,” Bowden quipped.

But not only the match day fashion connects the two head coaches. Hall grew up in Armory, Miss., and played high school prom for his father. Two of his people he most admired as a coach were his father and Bobby Bowden.

Hall was an NJCAA All-American at Northwest Mississippi Community College and set an NJCAA record for total offense in one season. He later played in North Alabama in 2003 and won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the all-time leading player in NCAA Division II football. He was also a regular at the annual Bowden Quarterback/Receiver Academy.

“Everyone from Peyton Manning, they all got through there,” Bowden said. “Every quarterback in the South in the ’80s and ’90s. Will was about a 10-year veteran of this camp when he was about four feet tall and then grew taller than me. He became part of our family and our family camp. I always knew he would be an outstanding coach.”

The opportunities to learn from both Bobby Hall and Bobby Bowden had a major impact on Hall’s coaching career and life.

“Coach Bowden’s father is one of my all-time heroes,” Hall said. “I believe in everything he stood for, how he treated people and how he brought his Christian values ​​to life.

“We are all, to some extent, a product of our environment. I was certainly the poster boy for the environment I grew up in because I knew from an early age what I wanted to do. I think it allows you to mature beyond your years.”

Terry Bowden and Will Hall both became head coaches at a young age, drawing from the experience of growing up in football coaching families. Bowden became the nation’s youngest head football coach in 1983 when he was named the top job at Salem College before becoming head coach at Samford, his father’s alma mater. Hall was 30 when he rose to head coaching in West Alabama.

The two have remained close ties over the years, first training against each other when Bowden was head coach at North Alabama – Hall’s alma mater – and Hall was offensive coordinator and then head coach at West Alabama. Both became head coaches at their current institutions in 2021 and will meet for the first time as NCAA FBS head coaches on Saturday.

Southern Miss is vying for their sixth win and bowl eligibility this week as ULM seeks its fifth win of the year, which would be its highest since 2019.

Although the two are longtime friends, they will be hard fought on Saturday to reach those milestones with their programs. With a tie, of course.

“I’m wearing a tie because this is my last hurray in coaching,” Bowden said. “I don’t want to train anywhere else. I want to go out like I came in. I’m glad that Will is sticking to that tradition a bit too.”

 

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