AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — When Dabo Swinney became Clemson’s full-time head coach in 2009, he had only one person working as the program’s support staff. That was former Clemson women’s tennis coach Andy Johnston, who held the same job for Tommy Bowden.
“We have grown a support staff,” Swinney said from the ACC Spring Meetings at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla. “We have been able to promote from within when we have had opportunities. We have been able to create career paths for coaches, administrators, create positions for former players to come back.
“For me, it has been very good for college football.”
Since those early days, Swinney’s football operations and off-field / recruiting staff has grown substantially over time. Going by last year’s media guide, Clemson has 46 staffers overall on the team, that includes assistant coaches, analysis coaches, graduate assistant coaches, strength and continuing coaches, football operations and off-field / recruiting staff.
Once a job that was run by one man now has more than 20 people running the everyday operations of the Clemson football program.
However, not everyone likes the fact a school like Clemson, Alabama, Georgia or Notre Dame has such big staffs. According to an article by CBS Sports.com, there is an outcry from schools that do not have the means to create a large staff and they are claiming it gives them a competitive disadvantage.
The NCAA is now looking into this subject to see if there is a competitive disadvantage.
“To me, it really comes down to who coaches on the field,” Swinney said. “We have rules in place on who can actually coach on the field. I don’t care how many staff members there are. I really don’t. I think, especially in today’s time, there have been some really quality positions that have been created that are great for the student-athlete. They are great for the assistant coaches from a support standpoint, but importantly, the day-to-day attention to detail that is required for your players.”
In 2007, Dan Radakovich was on the NCAA Recruiting Cabinet when this same question came up.
“We are now sitting in 2017 and the same question has come up, again. The reason for that 10-year gap is that there is not an easy answer for that question,” the Clemson athletic director said. “I don’t know if there is a good answer to the staff size question. I know it will be continued to be discussed and if there is a good landing spot then it will be part of the agenda and schools will vote for it.”
Swinney doesn’t understand why it is even being brought up.
“At the end of the day, the rules are who can coach on the field and in the weight room,” he said. “That is what everybody should stick to. At the end of the day, you are never going to run Nike the same as you do Mom & Pop shoe shop. There is always going to be differences from that standpoint. When you have a 100,000 seat stadium vs. 30,000 seat stadium, there are just differences that come with that. Too each his own in that regard.”
It comes down to what the individual schools can and / or want to invest in their programs. Eight years ago, when he had one person on his support staff, Swinney went to Clemson with his vision for the program, which included growing his support staff. Eight years later he was hoisting the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy on a stage in Tampa, Fla.
“Obviously, we have grown our program in eight years, but we have always taken what we have had and made the best of it. We have not always been where we are right now,” Swinney said.