Clemson HC Dabo Swinney Downplays Talk of Replacing Nick Saban at Alabama

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2019

Alabama head coach Nick Saban talks to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney before the NCAA college football playoff championship game Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney said Friday he remains firmly committed to the Tigers despite a buzzworthy contract clause that increases his buyout amount if he leaves for Alabama. 

Swinney told David M. Hale of ESPN.com the university presented the Bama clause amid speculation he could be the eventual replacement for Nick Saban with the Crimson Tide, and he "didn't have a problem with it" because he's happy at Clemson.

"People always like to say one plus one equals two, and it's a simple thing," he said. "I don't pay any attention. I was at Alabama 13 years. I love Alabama and always will. That won't change. But I'm going on my 17th year at Clemson, my 11th as head coach. I love where I am, love what I do."

Swinney started his coaching career at Alabama, where he played collegiate football from 1990 through 1992, as a graduate assistant in 1993. He became a member of the Tide's offensive staff in 1996 and filled a few different roles before leaving in 2000.

The 49-year-old Alabama native joined the Clemson staff in 2003 and worked up the ranks to offensive coordinator in 2008 and then head coach in 2009.

He's guided the Tigers to a 116-30 record across 11 years with two national championships in the past three years, including last season's title. He's also won the Paul "Bear" Bryant Award as the nation's top head coach three times since 2015.

Swinney told Hale his new deal at Clemson, which runs through the 2028 season, was meant to "send a message" he's intending to stay at the school for a long time, though he left the door open to change his mind if circumstances with the Tigers or the NCAA change:

"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'll 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."

Meanwhile, Saban recently explained to the SEC Network's Paul Finebaum (via Brad Crawford of 247Sports) he possesses no imminent plans to enter retirement.

"I would not want to do it if I did not feel like I was able to do a good job," he said. "If my health got bad or I felt like I was not able to keep up the pace. I don't want to ride the program down. We've worked hard to make Alabama something special and as long as I'm capable of contributing to keep it that way, I'm happy doing this."

Alabama and Clemson have alternated national titles over the past four years, and met in the College Football Playoff championship game three times over that span. As long as Saban and Swinney remain in place, the Tide and Tigers should stay among the sport's elite.

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