Clemson’s head coach built his program into a national power like no other time in school history
Never in a nine-year span has Clemson had the success it has reached under Dabo Swinney. Keep in mind, the program has had some great runs under College Football Hall of Famers Frank Howard and Danny Ford.
And though Howard put Clemson on the map with his great teams of the late 1940s and ’50s and Ford brought the program consistent national recognition with the 1981 National Championship and 87 wins in the 1980s, Swinney has taken the program to an entirely different level.
Clemson is now considered an elite program, one of the five best in college football year in and year out. The Tigers have won 97 games under Swinney in his nine full seasons as a head coach. They won the 2016 National Championship, played for the national championship in 2015 and have made it to the College Football Playoff in each of the last three seasons.
Under Howard and Ford, Clemson went to a combined four major bowl games … 1951 Orange Bowl, 1957 Orange Bowl, 1959 Sugar Bowl and the 1982 Orange Bowl. Since Swinney has been in charge, the Tigers have played in five major bowl games … 2012 Orange Bowl, 2014 Orange Bowl, 2016 Orange Bowl, 2017 Fiesta Bowl and the 2018 Sugar Bowl.
Before Swinney took over, Clemson had a combined seven 10-plus win seasons in his colorful history. The Tigers have produced at least 10 wins in each of the last seven seasons. By the way, they also have a nine-win season under Swinney’s guidance.
“We have had nine years of practice,” Swinney said when asked recently how he has built the Clemson program into one of the country’s best. “We had a vision nine years ago for it and we stuck with it. We have handled the success. We have handled the failure. We have grown in both of those situations.
“We have recruited at a high level. We have developed our players. We have graduated our players. We have had discipline and have created consistency in what we do and having continuity on our staff. All of those things have been a part of it.”
Swinney will not take all the credit. He says he and his coaching staff could not have done it with all the support they have received from the Clemson administration, the Board of Trustees, President Jim Clements, Athletic Director Dan Radakovich, their support staff and most importantly, the Clemson fans.
“We have had just great support,” Swinney said. “That is probably the thing that I am most proud of. We have really had eight good years out of the nine and seven have been ten-plus win seasons.
“The consistency is where we want to be. We want to be a program where you can count on year in and year out to have a chance to compete for our conference. If we can do that then we will have other opportunities.”