Dabo Swinney press conference (updated)


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CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney spoke with the media for the first time since parting ways with defensive coordinator Kevin Steele on Thursday, and he said that while Steele wasn’t fired, he also didn’t resign.

Here is an edited transcript of Swinney’s press conference:

Opening statement

“First of all, I hope that everyone has a little break from each other since the Orange Bowl. I just want to touch on a few things and then I’ll take some questions. First, everybody knows that we are going to have a change at defensive coordinator. Coach Steele is a friend. He has done a tremendous job the last three years. He has had an impact on myself and the student athletes both on and off the field. He has been an example to me as a father and a husband. I am thankful for the opportunity to spend three years with him. We sat down and talked. It’s part of the business to evaluate what’s best for everyone. As we talked, we both agreed that a change is the best thing for me, him and the staff as far as where we were at the time. The decision was made. It frees him up to look at other opportunities that he has. I actually got a call the morning after the bowl game. It allows us to move forward and continue to be the best that we can be. The main thing I want to state is how grateful we are for the contributions Coach Steele made. He was tremendous. I am forever grateful. I wish him the best.

“I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the Orange Bowl. It was poor performance. As I step back, you can’t let a terrible night let us lose sight of a special year. This is a roster that had 53 freshmen on it. I am proud of our football team. We had a great meeting last night. We made great progress in the last three years. This is the best season that Clemson has had in 20 years. I spent time with [former Clemson head coach] Ken Hatfield. We talked about that very thing. It’s hard for him to believe that it has been 20 years. He’s lived a lifetime. This team was special. They did something that will be remembered for a long time. The team has made a ton of progress. Nobody except the guys in this room believed that we would be ACC champions, win 10 games, play in the Orange Bowl.”

On Steele

“Kevin is a very professional guy. He understands the business. Here’s where we are: Do we want to continue to move forward or is it best for a change?. Here’s my thought - It just resolved to him leaving. It’s what people do. It’s perfectly okay for two people to agree to disagree. We’re both right and change is the best thing for everybody involved. The change was more philosophical differences. Those are things that our conversation was about and it is not something that I’m going to divulge. We both agreed to change. He’s got a great contract that he’s earned. He didn’t resign. We both agreed. This allows him to pursue some opportunities. We’re going to honor his contract. There was an agreement that change was needed. I didn’t want him to have to be fired. He didn’t deserve to be fired. We talked through some issues. At the end of the conversation the best thing was for us and him to pursue other opportunities. Call it what you want.”

On what he is looking for in defense

“We’ll continue to be an aggressive attacking defense. It has to be the right. We may stay within staff. I’ve got great men. Whoever comes in has to have good chemistry. Just got going yesterday. Form a philosophical standpoint - lets attack and get after people. Multiple with our coverages. It’s not about scheme as other things. He’s got his feelings on certain things. That’s where we are. Kevin is a great coach. He is an excellent coordinator. His track record speaks for itself. I think he and I just have some difference of opinion. As the leader of the program, that’s not good from a moving forward standpoint. That’s where we are.”

On who he has contacted
“As of last night, I’ve made contact. When this gets out in the public, at a place like Clemson, it doesn’t take long. It’s not fun to have a job opening. There’s a lot of great people you have to say no to. You can only say yes one time. I’m just starting that process.. We’ve contacted all those guys. No issues there. No time frame as to when. Just want to make right decision for staff, players, myself and Clemson. We’ll hire a great guy, a great footballl coach and will bring a lot to the table, and will fit in the culture at Clemson and will buy into the vision that we have. I have four or five names tha are pretty special. We’ll start there.”

On the criticism of strength coach Joey Batson

“That is a joke. That’s the problem. It’s crap like that I don’t know where it comes from. People have no clue. Batson is as good as coach as there is in the country. I have no idea. If he wasn’t a championship caliber guy, he wouldn’t be there. The discipline and accountability we have and the reason we don’t have crap is that goes on at other places is because of Batson. They respect him. The problem with the internet is that people have their own agendas. I don’t read any of it. Zero. That’s the devil’s playground. I met with Jon Gruden and with Ron jaworski- they said ‘Your guys are physical and strong. I don’t see many teams that look like your guys.’ It’s an all-encompassing program and it starts with joey. He’s as good as it is out there. My standard is the best and if he couldn’t live up to the best he wouldn’t be there.”
On offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell and perceived problems between Caldwell and Morris

“Give me a break, Caldwell isn’t a good coach, he’s a great coach. We are lucky to have everyone on this staff. Everyone always has things they can improve- me and everybody.. if you can’t get along with Chad and Caldwell then you’ve got a problem.”

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