The 2020 football was season was without a doubt the hardest year in Dabo Swinney’s coaching career.
It was a year that saw his character attacked on a couple of occasions, along with his coaching philosophy. He also had to manage his football program through a global pandemic with the same expectations of winning conference and national championships.
Through it all, including a season riddled with injuries, Swinney led Clemson to another ACC Championship and appearance in the College Football Playoff. The Tigers finished the year ranked No. 3 in the final polls, the sixth straight season the program has finished in the top 4 of the Associated Press College Football Poll.
“It is unprecedented. It has been incredibly challenging,” Swinney said recently. “I just tell them not to give up what they want the most for what they may want in the moment. It is really just that simple.
“The teams that do this the best and manage this the best. That is who is going to finish the best. I challenged them early on that this could be a competitive advantage. It does not have to be a competitive disadvantage. The glass is half full. It is not half empty.”
Off the field, even with all that was going on with the pandemic, 74 players earned a 3.0 GPA or better this past semester, while the program also produced its most graduates. Despite the Tigers’ season coming up short with a loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, Swinney felt his team had already won.
“This is a team full of great young people, great character, great heart. And nothing about the scoreboard changes that,” he said.
The Clemson coach said his players and staff took what they received and made the best of it. They did not focus on the “what ifs” or “what could have been.” Instead, to be cliché, they took it one day at a time and tried to get to the next day, knowing nothing was guaranteed.
“It is all about taking what we got and making the best of it,” Swinney said. “It’s been an unbelievably tough year on these kids. It has been incredible. People will never know. There will be books. There will be documentaries. There will be things … these kids twenty years from now will be telling stories that people will not believe.
“This is unprecedented times. We never had a moment like this and what these kids had to sacrifice to play is incredible.”
Swinney is thankful for his 2020 team because they fought hard to play the game they all love to play and coach.
“This has been a year I will never forget,” he said. “This is one of the closest teams I have ever been a part of. We really have had each other.”