This time 10 years ago, Dabo Swinney and his staff was hitting the road hard and was trying to salvage what was left of a recruiting class that fell apart following Tommy Bowden’s resignation as head coach in the middle of the 2008 season.
After getting Clemson to a 4-2 record in the last six weeks of the year, while earning a Gator Bowl bid in the process, Swinney was named the Tigers’ 25th head coach on Dec. 1. He ended up signing 12 players with that first class, which affectionately became known as “The Dandy Dozen.”
Fast forward 10 years later and the Tigers just won their fourth straight ACC Championship—on the 10th Anniversary of Swinney’s hire no less—and is once again in the College Football Playoff for a fourth consecutive year.
By the way, Clemson currently has the No. 3 recruiting class in the country. A lot has changed at Clemson in the last 10 years.
“I’m happy for our fans, for them to be able to see this and be a part of it,” Swinney said. “As I said out on the field, ten years ago this was a very emotional night for me because I got the opportunity to be the head coach at Clemson on this day. Ten years later, it’s still an emotional night, but for different reasons.”
In his 10-plus seasons as head coach, Swinney has built Clemson into one of the elite programs in college football. He has won one national championship already, played for another and has won five ACC Championships.
The Tigers have been ranked in the top 5 for four straight years. They have won 10 or more games for eight straight years. And for the first time ever in a decade they won 100-plus games.
Clemson (13-0) also just completed its second undefeated regular season in four years.
“It is just really, really an amazing season,” Swinney said. “I’m proud of our team. We’re 13-0. It’s just been a special year. It’s been a historic year. I mean, these guys, we always have our team goals. We sat down, and we talked about some kind of goals within the goals. These guys have done an amazing job of working toward those things.
“It’s just unbelievable. I’ve never really been a part of a team like this.”
Swinney says it has been the consistent leadership and the focused leadership they have had that has been special. For the seniors and their accomplishments, a 53-4 record and to win four ACC Championships in a row … no ACC team has ever done it.
“It’s amazing the journey that we’ve been on,” Swinney said. “As I told the team, we’re not in this position if it wasn’t for what took place before us in ‘15, ’16 and ‘17, to give this team an opportunity.
“We got one goal left, and that’s to try to win our closer. We’ll go to work on that right away.”