Don't count on a youthful Dabo Swinney leaving Clemson anytime soon
|Sunday, June 20, 2021, 8:00 AM- -|
The video from the day in 2008 that Dabo Swinney was announced as Clemson’s head coach shows a much younger man with a set jaw and a determination to make himself a success with the Tigers. Swinney hasn’t changed a lot, his youthful face belying his 51 years, and the biggest changes that we’ve seen have centered on Clemson’s success on the field.
Don’t count on Swinney going anywhere anytime soon, not if Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich has anything to do with it.
Going into 2020, Clemson entered the third decade of the 21st century after Swinney helped author one of the most prolific 10-year periods in the history of the sport. Clemson posted a 117-22 record under Swinney’s leadership in the 2010s, and the program’s 117 wins trailed only Penn (124 in the 1890s) and Alabama (124 in the 2010s) to tie for the third-most in a decade in major college football since 1890. Clemson’s 117 wins in 2010s represented the first 100-win decade in Clemson history.
Before a pandemic-shortened season in 2020, Clemson won at least 12 games in five straight seasons from 2015-19, tied for the longest such streak in the modern era and only two seasons shy of Penn’s record seven-season streak from 1892-98. Clemson won 69 games in that five-year span, the most in a five-year stretch in the AP Poll era.
At 140-33, Swinney (.809) enters the 2020 season as the winningest active coach by percentage in the FBS among coaches with at least five seasons of head coaching experience. With the addition of the 2020 ACC Championship, all 12 of Swinney’s recruiting classes have won at least one ACC title in their careers, and every recruiting class since 2012 has earned at least one College Football Playoff berth.
Clemson’s success on the gridiron has been matched by its prowess in the classroom, as Clemson is one of only three programs to earn Top 10 percent APR recognition from the NCAA in at least nine of the last 10 years, joining Duke and Northwestern. Clemson was in the top 10 of APR scores and the final top 25 of the AP and USA Today polls from 2011-15, the only FBS program that could make that claim. In 2017, Clemson became the first school to reach the College Football Playoff and finish in the top five of APR scores in the same year.
Many have thought that Swinney would one day replace Nick Saban at Alabama – even though those closest to him have said that there is no way he would want to do that – and the longer Saban coaches, the less there is a chance of that happening, something that Radakovich recognizes.
“Having worked with Nick, I’m still kind of scratching my head that he wants to work that long,” Radakovich said earlier this week. “He is a very, very young 69 years old… But that’s what we all aspire for is someone who continues to be on the cutting edge like Nick is, does a great job and wants to continue to do the things he does.”
Swinney has plenty left in his tank.
“I would tell you that Dabo’s a very young 51, and that’s great for Clemson,” Radakovich said. “And we want to make sure that he is here and continues to be a part of our program for years and years and years to come.”
As Saban coaches into his 70’s, Radakovich was asked if he could envision Swinney doing the same thing at Clemson.
“I would hope so. … I mean Dabo is an incredible ambassador for the University,” Radakovich said. “I think that he enjoys it, and as long as he enjoys it, I think he wants to stay here and be a part of Clemson athletics.”