Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney Rips Into Radio Show Caller About "Appreciation" For Tigers Program Amid 4-4 Season in 2023

By Chase Brown on October 31, 2023 at 8:49 am
Dabo Swinney
Ken Ruinard / USA TODAY Sports

Amid Clemson's worst season in over a decade, head coach Dabo Swinney completed an all-time rant after "Tyler in Spartanburg" called into "Tiger Calls" and asked him to defend Clemson's performance provided his status as one of the highest-paid coaches in America.

"You're part of the problem," Swinney told the caller. "The appreciation, the expectation is greater than the appreciation. That's the problem. We've won 12 10-plus-win seasons in a row. That's happened three times in 150 years. Clemson ain't sniff a national championship for 35 years; we've won two in seven years. And there are only two other teams that can say that: Georgia and Alabama.

"Is this a bad year? Yeah, and it's my responsibility. Take 100 percent responsibility for it. But all this bull crap you're thinking, all these narratives you read. Listen, man, you can have your opinion all you want, and you can apply for the job. And good luck to you."

Monday's emotional outpour was the latest response from Swinney as criticism mounts for the Clemson program and Swinney's role as its leader. The Tigers have a 4-4 record in 2023 and will miss the College Football Playoff for the third consecutive season.

In a radio show appearance two weeks ago, Swinney lamented the Clemson "bandwagon" fans and suggested that a few losses might help eliminate bad fans who have lost an appreciation for winning. The following Saturday, Clemson lost in overtime to Miami and, over the weekend, fell to NC State.

While Swinney's rant was short on Oct. 16, the coach took a few more moments on Monday to defend his salary and other aspects of the Clemson program.

"I started as the lowest-paid coach in this business [and] I worked my ass off," Swinney said. "I'm not going to let this smart-ass kid get on the phone and tell me how to do my job."

Swinney is in the second season of a 10-year, $115 million contract, which places him among the highest-paid coaches in college football. In 2009, his first season at Clemson, he was paid $816,850. He had been hired after being an interim head coach and had no prior coordinator or head-coaching experience. He has since won two national championships in 2016 and 2018.

However, in 2023, Clemson has failed to live up to expectations for the third consecutive season. After eight games, the Tigers have losses to Duke, Florida State, Miami and NC State and have a difficult matchup with Notre Dame on Saturday.

Swinney's demeanor after each defeat has grown more frustrated. He has refrained mainly from undercutting his players or coaching staff, pushing back against calls for coaching changes and criticism of players. Instead, Swinney has primarily deferred to lousy luck –particularly in the turnover department – in each of Clemson's losses. 

Over the past few years, Swinney has taken criticism over his refusal to dip into the transfer portal to add players to the roster, as well as for building his coaching staff from former players and others with Clemson ties. He fired offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter after the 2022 season and hired Garrett Riley as his replacement. But even Riley, recognized as one of the prominent young assistant coaches in college football, has struggled to transform the offense.

Swinney has also received criticism in recent years for his stance against players being paid. In 2015, he said that if players were paid directly, he may quit and coach in the NFL. He has since distanced himself from those comments, but as a result, Clemson fell behind other top programs in the name, image and likeness department.

Still, Swinney reverted to a similar approach on Monday, suggesting that if the school no longer felt he was doing a satisfactory job coaching the Tigers, he would go elsewhere.

"I work for the board of trustees, the president and the AD, and if they're tired of me leading this program, all they got to do is let me know. I'll go somewhere else where there is an appreciation," said Swinney, who added that he has 15 more years left as a coach. "I don't know if it'll be here, but it'll be somewhere."

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