A Monday in October changed the direction of the Clemson football program


by - Senior Writer -
Swinney has taken the Clemson program to unprecedented heights.
Swinney has taken the Clemson program to unprecedented heights.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney went from walk-on to scholarship player to assistant coach during his time at Alabama, but it was a Monday in October in Clemson that changed the course of his life.

In part one of this series with Swinney, he went into detail on the Tuesday practice that changed his life. In today’s story, he delves into the day that Tommy Bowden was let go and Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips named Swinney the interim head coach.

“And then I get hired to coach, and then fast forward to October of 2008 - that Tuesday was back in 1990 - so now 18 years later in 2008. I come to work on a Monday, October 13th in 2008, we are playing Georgia Tech that weekend and we are 3-3 and it's not a good environment at the time and people are mad,” Swinney said. “And we had a staff meeting that morning at 7 am. I come in and I had the devotions. We had the devotions and I go about my day and about 10:45 or so, the operations guy walks into our offensive staff meeting and says, 'Hey, coach Bowden needs to see the whole staff in the staff room.' It was kind of weird because we had already had a staff meeting.

“So now we go into the staff room and he tells us that he is going to be moving on and they are making a change and he would be talking to us soon. He walks out and the AD walks in. I am an assistant and don't have a relationship with the AD. The AD walks in and says, 'Hey, we are making a change and doing what we think is best and I expect all of you to do the best you can. I know it's a tough situation.' He then says, ‘With that said, Dabo you are now the head coach and you are calling all the shots. I need to see you in my office in five minutes.’”

Swinney walked down the hall not knowing what to expect. He only knew he was ready for any opportunity.

“So just like that Tuesday practice back in 1990, this is a Monday in 2008 in the middle of the season. And there are two things - from the day I got into coaching I prepared to be a head coach,” Swinney said. “I didn't know if I would ever be a head coach. But I prepared and I learned. I started putting a little book together because if I got my shot I wanted to be ready. Here is my philosophy, here are my beliefs, here are my academic beliefs, and here is my discipline. I had worked on that all these years.

“And the second part is, when I walk down to meet with this man in his office, I am thinking he is going to tell me, 'Hey, do the best you can and I will try and get the next guy to keep you.' I walked in and I sat down in his office and he looks at me and says, 'Dabo, I want you to be the head coach for the next seven weeks. I don't want you to be the interim. And whatever you think you need to do to fix this, I am going to support you. You can fire the whole staff, whatever it is you think we need to do. But here is what I believe. I have watched you for 5 1/2 years and I believe you are ready for this job. And I would love to see you get this job.'”

It was five minutes that changed his outlook.

“So I walk in with one mindset, but he is telling me that he wants me to get the job. He said he was going to get the best guy, but I had an opportunity in those seven weeks. He didn't want me to be an interim, he wants me to be the head coach,” Swinney said. “He had watched me with the players and the community and how I discipline guys, so he had been watching. Bloom where you are planted, because you never know who is watching. A lot of people will take a bad job just so they can be a coordinator. Some people will take a bad job just so they can be a head coach. As opposed to just be great with whatever it is you are doing. People will notice that.”

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