ESPN College Football analyst and radio host Paul Finebaum compared Clemson’s football program to South Carolina’s on his radio show on Friday, while ripping a Clemson fan for suggesting Dabo Swinney is like Alabama head coach Nick Saban, which the caller repeatedly said in the conversation he wasn’t trying to do.
As Finebaum’s blood pressure began to raise during the conversation the insults at the Clemson program and the Tigers’ fan base increased, which lasted for about three minutes.
The caller said, “I don’t think they are the next top dog. I just think they are on their way up.”
“On your way up is like South Carolina. You are talking top shelf,” Finebaum said.
Using the Gamecocks’ program did not help Finebaum’s argument. Granted South Carolina had a great three-year run under former head coach Steve Spurrier when it won 33 games from 2011-’13, but Spurrier could not keep it going on the recruiting trail and it eventually leveled off. In the last three years since, the Gamecocks have been 7-6, 3-9 and 6-7, while the program is now being run by Will Muschamp.
Though the Tigers lost to the Gamecocks all three years during their great three-year run, Clemson’s program still won an ACC Championship during that time, while also producing one 10-win season and back-to-back 11-win seasons. Since then, Clemson had another 10-win season, played for two national titles and won one of them over Nick Saban and Alabama.
So I don’t think comparing the Clemson fan’s statement about still being on the way up is comparable to South Carolina.
Also, during Finebaum’s rant, the producer of the show pointed out that Saban had 73 career wins over top 25 teams to Swinney’s 18, which incidentally is 20 not 18. But what he failed to mention in using the stat is that Saban has been a college head coach for 20 years, while Swinney has been a head coach for just nine years.
So really, that statistic should not apply. But, again, the caller never said Swinney was better or the same as Saban. The caller said he was not trying to say Dabo Swinney is the next Nick Saban, but he was saying that Swinney is only getting started and has great potential.
“I’m not trying to knock Nick Saban,” he said. “I do think he is the greatest coach in college football.”
That just made Finebaum angrier.
“I don’t need patronizing for Nick Saban. I know Nick Saban. I have known him for a long time,” the radio host said. “We don’t need that. We are talking about Dabo Swinney here. Who died and made Dabo Swinney the greatest coach of all time? He has one national championship, okay.”
Finebaum said he was not trying to start something, but he did not want to put Dabo Swinney in the same sentence as Nick Saban.
“You are talking about maybe the greatest coach in college football history, and Dabo Swinney right now has won one national championship. You want me to give you a long list of people who have won one national championship … Larry Coker, Gene Chizik, do I need to go on,” he said.
It’s not fair to Swinney and Clemson to compare his program with Coker’s and Chizik’s either. Coker took over for Butch Davis at Miami when he became the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. The program was already built to succeed. Davis built the program, not Coker. By the time Davis’ players left, which included back-to-back runs to the national title game and one national championship, Miami’s program fell apart under Coker and has not been back to the top since.
Chizik did a quick fix at Auburn by getting a few JUCO transfers, such as quarterback Cam Newton, to come in and help get the program to the top and win a national championship. However, Chizik could not sustain his success and eventually they fell back and he was fired.
Under Swinney, Clemson has won at least 10 games for six straight years, only Alabama can say that. Clemson has won 70 games during that time, only Alabama has won more. Clemson is one of only nine teams in the history of college football to win at least 10 games for six straight seasons.
But when the caller got a little aggravated and said, “You will see Paul. Just watch the next couple of years,” Finebaum responded by continuing to take shots at the Clemson program.
“Tell me … I don’t understand this,” he said. “Since when did Clemson become the ‘it’ school in the universe? They’ve won a national championship. They have been there twice. Other than that they had 30 years of mediocrity.”
“I never heard a more intoxicated fan base in my life,” he continued. “I mean enough of this already. You won a national championship. Good for you! You have been to two title games. Good for you! But quit talking like you won college football, okay.”
The caller replied by saying he was not trying to say Clemson owned college football, but Finebaum said, “You do mean it. I heard you yesterday and I heard you today. You do mean it. You are trying to be diplomatic. You are trying to be a nice guy. You are trying to be a nuance because you live out there in wherever Washington State, but I know what you are talking about. I hear you. I hear you loud a clear. Do me a favor and call me back when you have actually done something than win one national championship.”
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