Should Clemson's Dabo Swinney Go to Alabama When Nick Saban Retires?

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 18, 2017

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney (left) and Alabama head coach Nick Saban (right)
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney (left) and Alabama head coach Nick Saban (right)Handout/Getty Images

The prince beat the king earlier this month when Dabo Swinney's Clemson Tigers knocked off Alabama and Nick Saban, 35-31, at the last second in a national title game for the ages in Tampa.

Now it's only a matter of time until the discussion heats up regarding when that prince takes the throne.

Swinney, a former Crimson Tide walk-on from Pelham, Alabama, who won a national title as a wide receiver for Gene Stallings in 1992, made no bones about how much beating his alma mater for the championship meant to him personally.

"You can't make this up," Swinney said after winning the title. "Only God can do this. It's just a blessing to go to Alabama, walk on, earn a scholarship, win a national championship. But God brought me to Clemson, and our goal eight years ago was to put Clemson back on top, do it the right way, do it with their hearts, not their talent."

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyTom Pennington/Getty Images

That's something he created, built and owns at Clemson.

At Alabama, he would be asked to rewrite that script, not expand upon it.

Saban's contract runs through the end of the 2021 season. It's unlikely the five-time national champion will coach beyond that, and the 65-year-old could decide to hang up the headset prior to that deal's expiration. 

As Chris Low of ESPN.com reported last year, Saban isn't setting a timetable on getting out, but other coaches on the recruiting trail are beginning to suggest to prospects that he won't be in Tuscaloosa for the duration of their careers. 

Whenever he does retire, all eyes will turn to Swinney.

The Clemson coach should stay at the place he loves, not the one he loved.

Dabo Swinney Career Results
YearOverall RecordConference RecordChampionships
20084-33-2N/A
20099-56-2ACC Atlantic
20106-74-4N/A
201110-46-2ACC
201211-27-1ACC Atlantic
201311-27-1N/A
201410-36-2N/A
201514-18-0ACC
201614-17-1National
ClemsonTigers.com

Swinney was an interim fill-in for Tommy Bowden in the middle of the 2008 season, then he built the program into a monster.

After a 6-7 campaign in 2010 and a seat that was warming faster than the humidity in the summer in upstate South Carolina, Swinney reeled off six straight double-digit-win seasons. The program slowly but surely transformed from an afterthought to a division-title contender to a conference-title contender to a conference power to a national power.

Swinney deserves all the credit for that. He laid the foundation, built the frame, painted the trim and paid off the mortgage in nine years at the helm. He should enjoy his work rather than flip the property for the mansion Saban built.

"I told them that the difference in the game was gonna be love," Swinney said after beating Alabama. "That's been my word all year, love, and I said tonight we're gonna win it because we love each other. I told them at halftime that we're gonna win the game. I don't know how, but we're gonna win it. It doesn't even seem real to me. It's been an unbelievable eight years."

Swinney
SwinneyKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 47-year-old Swinney can extend that to 10, 20 or 30 if he wants at Clemson. 

At Alabama, the expectation will be for him to step right in and not miss a beat at a program where anything less than a national title is unacceptable thanks to the standard Saban set.

That wouldn't be fair to Swinney.

Besides, you never want to follow a legend. That's exactly what Swinney would be doing in Tuscaloosa, instead of cementing his legacy at Clemson.

Everything is set up for the Tigers to be a force for years.

The defense is loaded with players who will only get better, including linemen Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence. The offense has a proven track record of success. Freshman Zerrick Cooper and incoming signees Chase Brice and Hunter Johnson should leave the quarterback position in good hands for years.

Swinney would be out of his mind to bail now or anytime in the near future.

"You know, it's just, you never arrive," he said. "You're always striving to get better. What's next? For us it'll be, like I said, enjoying this moment, but getting excited about coming back and seeing if we can charge back up the mountain next year."

The phrase "home is where the heart is" gets said a lot, printed on posters and used in songs. Swinney should take it to heart.

He grew up in Alabama, learned the ropes at Alabama and owes his career to people at Alabama who helped him along the way.

His heart is at Clemson, though, and it should remain there whenever he gets called to his former home.

         

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats and recruiting information courtesy of Scout unless otherwise noted.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on SiriusXM. Follow Barrett on Twitter and Facebook.

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