By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — With great success comes a great price and that price for Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is the potential of his high-priced assistant coaches being courted by other schools.
Swinney addressed those issues Friday during the Chick-fil-A Bowl’s Official Press Conference to announce the 13th-ranked Tigers as their Atlantic Coast Conference representative in the New Year’s Eve Bowl game. The Tigers will play No. 7 LSU of the SEC.
Though the Chick-fil-A Bowl was there to talk about the Clemson-LSU matchup, Swinney ended up fielding questions in regards to the rumors that new Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson have targeted Clemson’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison.
It was also reported Thursday night that offensive coordinator Chad Morris was scheduled to interview for the head coaching vacancy at South Florida today, but Morris was in Clemson and said he is not interviewing.
Last week, Morris interviewed for the head coaching job at NC State.
“That’s the business,” Swinney said. “It’s not like (Clemson is) an isolated issue. In this business, the month of December, January and sometimes into February, things present themselves from time to time. I don’t get caught up and comment on things that are just rumors.”
It’s not surprising other schools are knocking on the door of the WestZone to talk to Clemson’s coaching staff. Clemson is paying Swinney’s staff a national high $4.2 million and they seem to be earning those high-priced figures.
The Tigers enter the Chick-fil-A Bowl with a 10-2 record, marking the second straight year Clemson has posted a 10-win season after going 21 years without one 10-win season. Morris, who makes $1.3 million, coordinated an offense that led the ACC in just about every offensive category in the regular season, including total, passing and scoring.
Clemson also led the nation in red zone scoring offense.
“I love having a staff that wants to be the best,” Swinney said. “Guys having opportunities to further themselves, I have no problem with that at all. You want to have a quality staff that is going to have opportunities to advance their careers from time to time.
“When that happens, you go hire another quality coach and you move forward.”
As the Tigers get ready for bowl practice, which starts tomorrow, the coaching rumors have appeared to calm down, but when they start back up, and they most likely will in the weeks to come, Swinney says he will address those matters only if something occurs.
“If I make a comment on a personnel issue, it’s not going to be a rumor,” he said. “It’s going to be because there is a transaction and a comment to be made about it. I don’t deal in rumors.
“I anticipate all of our staff being here. From time to time, if change happens, with the program we’ve built, we’ve put one in place that will respond appropriately and attract great coaches.”
But for now, Swinney is going to concentrate on LSU and trying to be the first Clemson coach in 31 years and only the third overall to guide his team to 11 wins in a season.
“We have a plan of preparation we’ll execute, and we’ve got a great staff,” Swinney said. “There’s always going to be things that come up that you have to evaluate. That’s all there is to it. I don’t look at it as a distraction.”