Swinney’s Refreshing Honesty
By Brandon Rink
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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney provided some refreshing candor in a recent press conference focused on potential conference realignment.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney wrapped up a media session this week jokingly telling the crowd to let him know when Clemson is headed for the Big 12.
Swinney had just given us a piece of his mind and more on the topic, taking one question and going nearly six minutes in his response, but, towards the end, summing up all he could say.
“Going to the Big 12 is not something I think is best for us,” Swinney said. “And I know, for a fact, that we’re 100 percent committed to trying to make this the best program and the best conference that we can possibly be.”
But his much stronger words minutes earlier are what rightfully grabbed the headlines.
“We’re a thousand percent committed to the ACC,” Swinney said. “Going to the Big 12 would be the worst thing we could do as a football program. It makes zero sense.”
The words sent shockwaves through the rumor-driven silly season of college football, which in the last couple years has been dominated by realignment talk – this time, Florida State and Clemson possibly leaving the ACC for the Big 12 the topic du jour.
Anybody with any familiarity with Swinney knows he doesn’t mince words, and it was plain to see this wasn’t a ploy. Swinney called out “irresponsible” reporting specifically.
“It’s been very frustrating because, quite frankly, there’s been a lot of irresponsible blogging, reporting – whatever. We live in this world nowadays somebody hears something from the third stall down in the bathroom and is like ‘okay, that’s a fact,’ and it’s so far from reality it’s not even funny. It just takes a life of its own.”
The Big 12 rumors have especially affected recruiting according to Swinney, which is a major factor this week with his high school football camp. These summer camps are becoming essential for bringing in top prospects and, more importantly, gaining commits, and Clemson has had as much success as any school in the country at this.
Since Swinney’s press conference, Clemson board of trustees chairman David Wilkins backed him up in a report by TigerNet.com Wednesday, echoing the “thousand percent committed to the ACC” comment and reiterating that there’s been no contact, formal or informal, with the Big 12.
With every realignment discussion, statements are always qualified, and Swinney barely kept the door open saying: “I’m a football coach. I don’t run the university – I don’t want to run the university. That’s not my grass to mow. If they tell me to we’re going to play in the Japanese league, I’m going to get the team ready to go play.”
But it was refreshing, for the most part, to have a real, on-the-record opinion in the mess that is realignment and the tangled web of sports coverage these days.
Maybe Clemson does get a Big 12 offer and accepts later this year or down the road – yes, Swinney will look bad, but thanks to a new extension that goes through 2017, he will indeed be the coach and will find a way to spin it.
At least we know where he stands, and I’d like to think that still counts for something.