Monday Morning Quarterback
What has made the Atlantic Coast Conference standout for so long in college basketball is the longevity of its head coaches. Guys like Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, Dean Smith and Roy Williams at North Carolina, Lefty Driesell and Gary Williams at Maryland and the list goes on and on.
For years, when someone thought of ACC Basketball, Smith’s name popped into their mind. It’s the same way with Krzyzewski and Roy Williams now. They are the faces of the ACC when it comes to college basketball.
When it comes to football, the conference has not at that same kind of staying power with its head coaches. The ACC had some good ambassadors such as Clemson’s Frank Howard and Virginia’s George Welsh, but they never reached the level of success nationally like their brethren in basketball have done.
The lone coach, who can mask the level of success and staying power that Smith, Krzyzewski and the Williams have had in ACC Basketball is former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden. He was the face of ACC Football for a good portion of the 1990s through the early 2000s. His Seminoles won two national championships, played for two more and won 12 ACC Championships in the 18 seasons he coached in the conference.
From 1992-2000, the Seminoles finished every year in the top 5, a streak that actually began in 1987 before they joined the conference in 1992.
But it just wasn’t Bowden’s success on the gridiron that made him the face of the conference. It was his personality, his southern charm, his relationships with the media and his values that stood out the most.
Since Bowden’s retirement after the 2009 season, the ACC has been looking for its new face in football and it may have found him.
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney appears to be the guy, especially since Jimbo Fisher left Florida State to become the new head coach at Texas A&M. But even before that, it was obvious Swinney was becoming the darling of ACC Football.
Swinney’s country boy charm and his strong religious convictions and values to go along with his boyish enthusiasm and geniality make him a favorite with the media and the fans alike.
“I think he is without question the face of the conference,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford told The Clemson Insider recently. “When you have that kind of accomplishment and have the personality that he has and the way in which he runs his program, there is no question.”
It also does not hurt that Swinney is a winner. He is the fourth fastest coach to reach 100 wins in the history of college football. He has already won one national championship, played for another and has now taken Clemson to three straight College Football Playoff appearances.
Last week he won his third straight ACC title and now has four overall. The Tigers have won two Orange Bowl Classics and have a Fiesta Bowl Championship in their pocket as well under Swinney.
“He has been there on the national stage in the biggest of games for three straight years now and frankly was in a lot of big games before that,” Swofford said.
Since 2011, Clemson is 82-14, including seven straight 10-win seasons, which is second only to Alabama’s 10. The Tigers have knocked off some of the heavyweights in college football such as Alabama, LSU, Ohio State (twice), Oklahoma (twice), Georgia and Auburn (four times).
“He is so well respected for who he is and his value system as well as the results he is getting in terms of how he runs his program and coaches his team,” Swofford said. “I think he very much has been the face of ACC Football in recent years.”