TigerNet asked Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal Constitution for an interview concerning all things Clemson a few weeks ago, and he graciously complied.
“Mr. College Football” will be beginning his 36th year of covering college football this season, and has completed his 25th year writing for the AJC. He appears as a college football insider for CBS Sports and he also does significant television and radio work.
We covered everything – from the new playoff in college football to the ACC/Orange Bowl Alliance to conference realignment to Clemson’s scheduling. The following is a transcript of that interview.
TigerNet – Clemson fans have been reading the AJC article today about Robert Nkemdiche, and the No. 1 recruit’s comments about his attending Clemson being a done deal if the Tigers were to offer another one of his high school teammates. What is your take on that?
Tony Barnhart - My whole take on that - just from reading what Michael Carvell wrote – would be that I would love to hear how or if he has phrased that to the Clemson coaches. You don’t normally offer a player that you don’t think will help you. I think the Clemson coaches will talk to that young man, and tell him, ‘It is nice that you want to help your teammates, but you are just one of many scholarships. We want you at Clemson.’ But I don’t think they make that offer unless he is a player they really, really want.
TN – What is your opinion on the recently announced agreement between the ACC and the Orange Bowl? Does this help the ACC and the national perception of the conference?
TB – The ACC was going to make that deal no matter what. This doesn’t change perception. The ACC just needs to win more games, more BCS games. This deal doesn’t have anything to do with that. Everybody knew that the conferences were going to lock in people, and lock in deals with the bowl. For the Orange Bowl, the ACC was the best option. In terms of changing perception, the ACC needs to win more of those big games.
TN – I wrote last week that the ACC basically has a two –year audition to change a lot of people’s minds about the strength of the conference. Do you agree with that, or what does the ACC need to do to be a better national brand?
TB – The ACC has to not only schedule those big out-of-conference games, but they need to win them. The ACC is where they have to be to be considered for one of those four playoff spots. The problem is when you get into a situation where an ACC team is one of four or five undefeated teams, or one four or five teams that have one loss. When it comes down to that third or fourth spot, has the ACC done enough? But you can bet that if FSU is 13-0, or Clemson is 13-0, they are in that four team playoff. Where the ACC gets into trouble is if they have one of those many one-loss teams. The ACC needs to improve on how they do in those big games.
TN – There is a lot of talk on our site about how Clemson is perceived nationally…can you provide some insight into that, or what your perception of this program happens to be?
TB – First of all, people would need to define perception for me. I don’t think it is perception that wins or loses games. I think people look at Clemson as a team that has had success, and has all of the resources they need to be successful. It just so happens that Clemson happened to play a very bad game that night against West Virginia, and those things happen. I don’t know what the perception is that other people have, but I know that Clemson won the ACC last year, and they have a very good chance to win the ACC this year.
TN – Despite being in the ACC Championship Game in two out of three years, and winning it last year, there are still those that don’t think Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
View Full Profile is the right coach for Clemson, or they consider him to be on the hot seat. Obviously, losing three consecutive times to your rival will do that. What is your opinion on the job he has done at Clemson?
TB – What Coach Swinney is doing is he is building a program at Clemson. He is bringing in very good players, and he is building the infrastructure and support to make this a good program for a long time. Not only on the football side, but in academics and with the faculty. I have been very impressed with him and the job he has done. Now, you still have to win games and win championships, because that is ultimately what you will be judged on. But he is building a program at Clemson that will last. I don’t know how anyone can say he is on the hot seat.