However, there is nothing wrong with having a little fun leading up to it
NEW ORLEANS — Dabo Swinney is not going to apologize for letting his players have a little fun this week in New Orleans. After all, this is a bowl trip and playing in the Sugar Bowl is a reward for what has been a great season.
On Wednesday, Swinney gave his Clemson players an opportunity to experience “The Big Easy” a little bit before he starts to bring them in a little bit more and more with each passing day leading up to Monday’s Sugar Bowl from the Superdome.
On the other end, Nick Saban does not mind his Alabama players going out and having a little fun. However, he does not encourage it either. Both teams are staying in the French Quarter district of New Orleans, just blocks away from the infamous Bourbon Street.
The last time Alabama played in the Sugar Bowl was in the first College Football Playoff four seasons ago as it lost to eventual National Champion Ohio State.
“When we came to the first game four years ago we were trying to balance the bowl experience with the whole playoff experience, not having ever done that before,” Saban said. “Our players make the decisions about curfew and what they do and how they do it. I give the leadership on the team the opportunity to do that.
“Each passing year they have been more serious about the game and less interested in the bowl experience. They have experienced consequences in the game, good consequences and bad consequences. I think they understand that after going through the experience as I do, the fun of it all is having success. The fun of it all is winning the game and no matter what you do.”
But Swinney’s way has worked pretty well, too. Clemson has won a bowl game in each of the last five years and has won seven under Swinney overall, a Clemson record for a head coach.
“I don’t know how they approach it,” Swinney said. “So I don’t know how to make a contrast. I just know what we do. And we work really, really hard. We prepare…we’ve been preparing. We’ve practiced very well, great meetings. We practiced today, earlier…meetings today. And kind of had our Monday practice today…everyone traveled back yesterday, enjoyed a good break, like I said, kind of a mental Monday for us…get your mind right, good meetings, good practice, and I kind of like to do it that way.”
Whose way is best?
That is hard to determine considering the level of success both programs have had in doing in it their own way.
“We try to enjoy the journey. That’s what it’s all about to me,” Swinney said. “I mean, it’ll be a great moment Monday night … It’s really the journey that I always try to enjoy…just enjoy the day. Enjoy practices. Just enjoy being with these guys.
“This could be the last week to be with this team. Hopefully we can earn one more bus ride and pregame meal and all that stuff but you have to earn that. That’s what it comes down to. But I want them to enjoy it, have some fun, and look back on their time. We always say fun is in the winning, and ultimately it comes down to that. You have to win the game. But I don’t’ think you have to be miserable to do that in the process. It’ll be a great week, looking forward to it.”