I was asked on a couple of radio shows on Tuesday if Steve Spurrier being in Columbia had an effect on the way Dabo Swinney built his program at Clemson. I chuckled a little bit, and shook my head.
My answer was simply, “No.”
Though Spurrier did a lot for college football, and he definitely helped reshape the Clemson-South Carolina Rivalry, his success as the head coach of the Gamecocks had nothing to do with the way Swinney has built his own program in Clemson.
Being the head coach at Clemson already has its own expectations. Due to the successes of Frank Howard and Danny Ford from the 1950s and 1980s, Clemson was already established as one of the top programs in the country. It had already won a national championship, 14 ACC Championships, elite bowl games and plenty of 10-win seasons. It has a rich and storied history.
Success at Clemson had already been defined way before Dabo Swinney took over the program. He had a lot more to live up to than just Steve Spurrier.
Since 2011, Swinney has guided the program to a 47-11 overall record. Clemson has won 30 of its last 32 home games, including 13 straight. He won an ACC Championship. He won an Orange Bowl. He has beaten LSU, Oklahoma and Ohio State in bowl games. He has beaten storied SEC programs like Auburn, Georgia and LSU.
Those are all things Swinney’s program at Clemson has accomplished. It had nothing to do with Spurrier or what the Gamecocks were doing.
When he permanently took over as head coach, Swinney began changing the culture at Clemson, getting his players to accept that it was no-longer acceptable to take days off. He brought in coaches who thought the same way he did, hiring high-energy guys that love to recruit and love to push their players to always give their best. He recruited high quality kids that fit Clemson as every much as Clemson fits them.
Sure he has missed on a couple, but for the most part just about every kid that comes to Clemson to play football leaves it with a degree in his hand or comes back later and achieves it.
Yes, Spurrier went 5-2 against Dabo Swinney, and no one hated losing those five straight games to South Carolina more than Swinney. But Swinney stuck to his plan. He did not panic, and he did not let losing that one game derail his overall plans for the program.
He knew eventually he would catch up with Spurrier, which he did with last year’s 35-17 victory over the Head Ball Coach. But Swinney just didn’t catch with Spurrier and the South Carolina program, he passed them.
Maybe that’s one reason why Spurrier resigned on Monday – he couldn’t stand the thought of being second best in his own state.
So in a way, maybe Swinney’s success at Clemson had more of an effect on Spurrier than he had on Swinney.