ATLANTA -- If Clemson needed reason to look into the future with great expectations in football, the Tigers received another endorsement this week.
Offensive coordinator Rob Spence sent that message with his decision to withdraw from consideration for the same job at Tennessee.
Forget a chance to take a giant leap up the pay-scale ladder. Forget the possibility of becoming part of a program that almost always takes a place in the national rankings.
Instead, he cast his lot with the Tigers.
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He called himself flattered to be approached by coach Phillip Fulmer, but he did not want to wait for the Vols' timeline to fill the offensive coordinator's slot.
"I spoke to them about their vacancy, but I was not offered the position and I did not anticipate I would be," he said Saturday after Clemson finished its on-the-field preparation for Monday's Chick-fil-A Bowl clash against Auburn. "They were going through a process that would finish much later, and I felt it was not fair to our program and the players here to let (speculation) continue."
Spence no doubt will receive a pay increase after overseeing the Clemson unit that ranked among the ACC leaders in almost every offensive category and the possibilities for next season look limitless.
His decision and the stability that comes with it should bode well for Clemson's football future.
Very few coaches receive genuine interest from Alabama one year and Tennessee the next. Spence did, and that speaks to the esteem he is held in the coaching profession.
"You always wonder if your coaches are not being pursued by other schools," a Clemson trustee noted.
His coordinator responsibilities leave him just a notch below the head coach as a target for criticism, and Spence has received his share. His giving running stars James Davis and C.J. Spiller only limited carries in last year's Music City Bowl and his calling pass plays rather than Davis runs near the goal this year especially provided fodder.
Those situations bring to mind a story about Danny Ford and play calls.
In 1980, Ford's second full season, the Tigers threatened late against N.C. State and attempted to power the ball into the end zone on the ground. The Wolfpack held, and Clemson lost 24-20.
"A guy runs up after the game and tells me, 'Everybody knows you can't win running into the line like that,'" Ford said in telling the tale.
Two weeks later in a similar scenario against North Carolina, the Tigers faked into the line near the goal, but the Tar Heels sniffed out the pass play, nailed the quarterback and won 24-19.
Tigers coach Tommy Bowden can identify and said before the bowl, "A good play is one that works and a bad play is one that doesn't."
A deeply religious person, Spence said he prayed over the potential to move to Tennessee.
"I look to God and Jesus Christ in everything I do and say," he said. "That is first and foremost in my life. God had opened a door for me to look at that (opportunity)."
In a statement, Bowden called other schools' interest in Spence a compliment and noted that Spence's decision to stay is a compliment to Clemson.
"We have the program headed in the right direction on many fronts, and he wants to be a part of it," Bowden said. "Rob has done an outstanding job with our offense over the last three years."
Next season, he will have continuity at quarterback and -- barring early defections to professional football -- all of the Tigers at the so-called skill positions return.
The possibilities, he said, are exciting, and his decision to stay in Tigertown reinforces that thought.