Sources at UT confirmed yesterday that Spence, Toledo's assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, was in South Carolina for the past two days meeting with Bowden regarding the vacant offensive coordinator's position there.
Bowden, the son of legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, fired both his offensive and defensive coordinators about a month ago after his team finished 6-5 this season.
The Tigers started 1-4 and had to win five of their last six games tofinish with a winning record. Bowden has been under intense pressure to improve Clemson's sluggish offense, which ranked 109th in the country out of 117 Division I-A teams with just 295.64 yards per game.
Under Spence's direction, Toledo had the No. 7-ranked offense in the country this season (474.08). The Rockets (9-4) averaged 35 points per game, 13th in the nation, while Clemson averaged 21 - 89th in the country.
Bowden, 47-24 in six seasons at Clemson, was seen Thursday jogging on campus with Spence, an avid distance runner, according to published reports in South Carolina. Bowden is believed to have first contacted Spence about the job several weeks ago, but Spence declined comment at the time as Toledo was preparing for the Dec. 27 Motor City Bowl, and has not returned several phone messages seeking comment since UT's 39-10 loss to Connecticut.
The 46-year-old Spence has previous ties with Bowden, having worked at the Bowden Academy football camp in the summers. Clemson utilizes a spread offense with one running back, similar to what Spence installed when he arrived at UT four seasons ago when Tom Amstutz became head coach.
Spence has tested the waters several times during his tenure with the Rockets, interviewing for the offensive coordinator's position at Auburn following the 2003 season, and for the same position at Middle Tennessee State.
The eccentric Spence, who has shunned media attention despite the notoriety his offense received, had originally accepted an offer to become the offensive coordinator at Utah in 2001 before doing an about-face and signing on with Amstutz. Spence said at the time he had changed his mind so that his two daughters could be closer to their grandparents in New York and his wife's family in Wisconsin.
Spence, who is paid more than $100,000 per year at UT, would reportedly make almost twice that amount at Clemson with a multiyear contract, if Bowden offers him the job.
If Spence leaves UT, the Rockets would be without their coordinators on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Lou West has left UT to take the head-coaching job at Division I-AA Indiana State.
Spence, a native of Pelham, N.Y., has also been on the staffs at Louisiana Tech, Hofstra and Maryland.
Contact Matt Markey at: