Dabo Swinney on the state of Alabama: "They aren't as happy to see me"

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Swinney has led Clemson to two out of the last three National Championships
Swinney has led Clemson to two out of the last three National Championships

Many might think of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s as one of the state of Alabama's favored sons, but Swinney sees himself as more of a stepbrother.

Swinney, a Pelham native and Alabama graduate, is now the highest-paid coach in college football at an average of $9.3 million per year through the 2028 season. The new contract was written with an Alabama clause, a steeper financial penalty if Swinney leaves early for the top job at Alabama.

Swinney’s buyout is more if he leaves Clemson for Alabama than if he leaves Clemson for any other school. For example, if Swinney were to leave Clemson for Alabama in 2022, then he would have to pay Clemson a $3 million buyout plus an additional $1.5 million to go home to Alabama.

However, the Tigers have beaten Alabama in two out of the last three National Championship Games, and Swinney said that while many Alabama fans might have viewed his early success without much concern, things have now changed.

Clemson also reached into Alabama and plucked wide receiver Justyn Ross out of the state – Alabama was one of Ross’ finalists – and Ross torched the Crimson Tide with six catches and 153 yards in the title game in January.

Swinney was asked recently on SiriusXM if the state of Alabama was going to put up a wall to keep him out.

“I think it was all fun and games early on. It was, ‘Awww, isn’t that sweet?’ and all that stuff. I don’t know about walls, but I am kinda like Osama Bin Dabo,” Swinney said with a laugh. “I have to navigate my way through the caves and back channels to make my way through Alabama these days. They aren’t as happy to see me. But it’s all good. It’s a good problem.”

He’s no longer a favored son, he’s a stepbrother.

“It’s almost like you are playing your brother or your cousin. Even though you are brothers, and they blow the whistle, you want to compete and you want to win,” Swinney said. “But when it’s over you hate you lost you are like, ‘Crap, I lost. But at least it’s to my brother.’ I think they’ve made me a stepbrother now. But I am still in the family.”

Bloom where you are planted is one of Swinney’s life guidelines, and he told ESPN recently that while he still loves the state of Alabama, he’s happy in Clemson.

"People always like to say one plus one equals two, and it's a simple thing," Swinney said. "I don't pay any attention. I was at Alabama for 13 years. I love Alabama and always will. That won't change. But I'm going on my 17th year at Clemson, my 11th as head coach. I love where I am, love what I do."

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