Clemson's Dabo Swinney Says He's Against 'Professionalization of College Athletics'

Erin WalshJanuary 28, 2022

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers looks on during warm ups before their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has never been shy about sharing his feelings, and that was no different while speaking about name, image and likeness deals during an appearance on The Players Club Podcast with Darien Rencher. 

Swinney said:

"I'm not against NIL at all. What I am against is anything that devalues education. That's what I'm against, and I'm against the professionalization of college athletics, and what does that mean? Well, that means, now we're paying you guys your salaries and 18-year-olds have to pay taxes, and, you know, I don't think that's good. I think we should keep the focus on graduation, incentivize graduation and do everything we can to modernize and improve the scholarship in addition to these NIL opportunities. I think it's great, but again, with the NIL, with the transfer portal, there are some things going on that I don't think is sustainable, and I don't think it's good for a lot of young people. 
"You're talking 18-19-20 year olds that shouldn't be equipped (yet to handle what's going on), you know? And 98% are not going to the NFL. So let's help them maximize this for sure, but let's not allow some of the craziness that is creeping up."

Swinney said back in 2019 that he might as well quit coaching college football and move to the NFL if players in college were ever paid, per Zach Barnett of NBC Sports:

"Who knows what's going to happen down the road? I have no idea. I just try to be great where my feet are. That's my focus every day. Who knows? They may do away with college football in three years. There may be no college football. They may want to professionalize college athletics. Well, then, maybe I’'l go to the pros. If I'm going to coach pro football, I might as well do that. I may get a terrible president or a terrible AD one day. I don't know. I have no idea what's down the road. But I know what we have at Clemson is special, and I wanted to make a commitment to the university. That's what the message of the contract was."

However, Swinney clarified those comments in July 2021, saying they were taken out of context, per Zach Lentz of Sports Illustrated:

"I've never had a problem with name, image and likeness. I think it should have been more. If I’d have been the czar, I'd have done it differently, because I don't think everybody's gonna have much opportunity with it. Some will. But not everybody will have opportunity.
"I would have liked to have seen it tied to graduation, education. … What I said, whenever that was, I still say. I am against professionalizing college athletics where we get away from the collegiate model and the value of a degree and the value of an education. I've never, ever said I’m against name, image and likeness. I think it's a lot of common sense. I think it could be more. I think it could be tied more to the education process so everybody would have had a little more opportunity. I said that, whenever it was, but people hear what they want to hear."

The NCAA adopted an interim NIL policy in June 2021. It allows college athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness.

After the Tigers got out to an inconsistent start in 2021, Swinney was asked whether the new NIL policy had created a distraction in the locker room. He shut down the notion, telling reporters there was no correlation between NIL deals and Clemson's on-field struggles. 

The Tigers ended up finishing the 2021 season with a 10-3 record and a 20-13 win over the Iowa State Cyclones in the Cheez-It Bowl. So despite all the noise, Swinney's Tigers were clearly unaffected by NIL deals, finishing the year on a high note.