Clint Bowen ready to lead Lions after spending over two decades as college coach

photo by: Nick Krug

Kansas safeties coach Clint Bowen directs his players on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the indoor practice facility.

After more than two decades of coaching at the collegiate level, Clint Bowen is coming back home to take over the high school program that he once played for.

Bowen, a Lawrence native who graduated from Lawrence High in 1990, was named the new LHS head football coach on Monday. He becomes just the ninth person to hold that title since 1945 and takes over a program responsible for 10 Class 6A state championships since 1979, and many others from the days when The Associated Press sports writers decided the champion.

“Deep down, I’ve always kind of thought I would go to the high school level,” Bowen told the Journal-World on Monday. “I always hoped it’d be Lawrence High, but obviously Lawrence High doesn’t go through football coaches very often.”

A longtime assistant at the collegiate level, Bowen most recently was the defensive coordinator at North Texas in 2020. He replaces Steve Rampy, who left after three seasons to become the head coach at Staley High School in Kansas City, Mo.

This is not the first time that Bowen has entertained the idea of coaching at the high school level. In fact, shortly after wrapping up his playing career at the University of Kansas, Bowen began his coaching career as a member of Bob Lisher’s staff at Blue Valley North.

Bowen then got a chance to be a graduate assistant at KU in 1998. He’s been coaching at the college level ever since, a run that included his first stint at KU that lasted from 1998 through 2009.

Bowen, who has held a variety of different roles during his coaching tenure, climbed up the ladder to eventually serve as the lone defensive coordinator for the Jayhawks during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

He also was the defensive coordinator for Western Kentucky in 2010 and North Texas during the 2011 campaign.

Following that brief two-year hiatus from Lawrence, Bowen returned to the KU staff for his second stretch with program between 2012-19. His lone shot at being a head coach came in 2014, when the Jayhawks went 1-7 during his time as the interim head coach.

“The college football game actually treated me probably too (well) to make it possible a few times in the past,” Bowen said of returning to high school. “It was just a time in my career where things were going in a way that it really wasn’t an option for what I had to leave on the table.”

“The way the timing played out was almost eerie in a way,” Bowen added about it being the right time now.

But the Lions landing Bowen came down to more than just timing. Bowen said that LHS athletic director Nick Wood played a big part in him taking the job, a decision that came after he turned down other more lucrative offers to stay in the college game.

“He did a great job of reaching out and presenting the opportunity and putting some things out there from a different perspective that I hadn’t thought of,” Bowen said.

Wood acknowledged that he did his due diligence throughout the hiring process, which started when Rampy announced he was leaving on Jan. 16. Wood said he spoke to coaches in the area, members of the LHS coaching staff and members of the community to “get a feel for who would be a great fit” to guide the Lions.

Bowen, who mutually parted ways with North Texas in early January, ultimately fit that criteria for Wood.

“It was important to me that I find an individual that recognized and honored the history and tradition of Lawrence High while at the same time moved us forward into our next chapter of excellence,” Wood said. “I truly believe he is that guy.”

“He understands what Lawrence High is all about (and) he understands what Lawrence is about,” Wood added. “From an X’s and O’s standpoint, it was a home run. From a Lawrence High standpoint, it was a home run.”

Similar to Bowen, Wood, a 1996 LHS graduate, coached at the collegiate level as an assistant for Washburn men’s basketball before returning to Lawrence. This is Wood’s first year as athletic director for LHS.

While getting to know each other during the past few weeks, Wood and Bowen learned that they both really cared about making an impact in their hometown.

“What we shared in common is that we both grew up in this community and we both recognized how fortunate we are to be a part of that,” Wood said. “He has an opportunity now to go give the youth of Lawrence the same opportunity he was given when he grew up.”

That same sentiment was constant throughout the interview process. Bowen eventually had a meeting over zoom that featured Wood along with interim principal Cynthia Johnson and Lawrence superintendent Anthony Lewis.

Bowen loved what all three brought to the table, saying Johnson’s “enthusiasm and sincere passion for helping kids just jumps off of a Zoom call right at you,” and aligned with his own mindset. It all played a part in him taking the job, which also will include him being a teacher in the physical education department.

“They really put it on the table in a way that made this really attractive,” Bowen said of the trio of Wood, Johnson and Lewis. “It wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t handle it the way that they handled it.”

The opportunity also gives Bowen the chance to coach his own kids. Baylor Bowen, who is listed as a 6-foot-3 receiver on his Hudl page, will transfer to LHS for his senior campaign. He’s coming off a state title run during his lone season at Argyle High School in Argyle, Texas.

Argyle went 16-0 last season and never trailed en route to winning a state championship last fall. Banks Bowen also will be a freshman at LHS next fall.

“They are excited to come back home,” Bowen said. “They have a lot of friends (in Lawrence), so that made it a little bit easier.”

Bowen understands better than most the level of expectations that come with leading the Lions, who went 17-3 over the past two seasons and advanced to the Class 6A quarterfinals while also being the top-ranked team for much of 2020.

While Lawrence hasn’t won a state title since 1995, Bowen knows that securing state crowns remains the primary goal for the LHS football program.

“Winning state championships is what it’s all about,” Bowen said of the Lawrence High legacy. “Obviously, we are going to find a way to do it the right way and teach our kids the life lessons along the way.”

Clint Bowen’s college coaching resume

1998-2009: Kansas

• Roles held: Graduate assistant, tight ends coach, special teams coordinator, running backs coach, safeties coach, co-defensive coordinator and defensive coordinator

2010: Western Kentucky (Defensive coordinator)

2011: North Texas (Defensive coordinator/safeties)

2012-2019: Kansas

• Roles held: Safeties coach, special team coordinator, linebackers coach, defensive coordinator and interim head coach

2020: North Texas (Defensive coordinator)

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