Although Dabo Swinney has previously taken a lot of heat at Clemson, his current response is different.

The last time Bob Stoops and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney spoke was a few years ago. Although Stoops had resigned from coaching at Oklahoma, the two had never been more than friends and seldom crossed paths.

Then, on Halloween, Stoops discovered some quotes from Swinney while looking through his phone.

In 2023, a caller to Swinney’s radio program, “Tyler from Spartanburg,” penned a meandering assessment of the coach’s work, claiming, among other things, that the Clemson head coach hadn’t earned his almost $11 million contract following the team’s 4–4 start to the season.

In response, Swinney gave what he would later refer to as “an Old Testament answer.”

Among Swinney’s biting criticisms were:

“It’s people like you, where expectations surpasses than the appreciation — you’re part of the problems.”

“You realize, those people who simply like using their remarks to make other people unhappy? You have undoubtedly never made a poor choice. You have undoubtedly had the ideal life.”

“All of this story you read, all of this bullshit you’re thinking. You may apply for the position and voice your opinions all you want, guy. Listen. And I wish you luck.”

“No matter how much money I make, I won’t sit here and let you call in. You’re not going to treat me like a twelve-year-old. You had to be absolutely fooling me.

After reading the entire screed, Stoops couldn’t help but write Swinney a message.

It said, “Good for you.”

As it turned out, Stoops and many of other coaches throughout the nation were moved by Swinney’s tirade.

For coaches, this may be a challenging contradiction. They are well-known and wealthy, and even when they make terrible mistakes, they get large buyout payouts (see: Jimbo, Fisher). For this reason, not many people feel very sorry for them when they face a barrage of negative press. However, the never-ending barrage of fan complaints might finally become to be too much to handle and run the risk of, as Swinney said, “stealing the love” of the work.

It’s debatable to what extent Swinney’s remarks relieved the pressure on his team, but they undoubtedly had an effect on many coaches across the nation. Clemson, who have won four straight after Swinney’s radio tirade, is set to play Kentucky within the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl (Noon ET on ESPN).

“I don’t even really know what I said,” Swinney admitted to Tyler from Spartanburg in the days following his remarks. However, it seems that I said something that offended a few individuals in my line of work. If there was one good thing that came out of it, it was that I got to meet some new individuals and inspire several trainers. Numerous current and past coaches, along with a few extremely well-known individuals, took it upon themselves to obtain my phone and get in touch. It meant a lot to me to perhaps inspire and support a few people who, in my opinion, are now facing challenges in their careers.”

A sort of ceasefire has been made between Mack Brown and his fan base. This new, sometimes brittle tranquility is a recent development for the 72-year-old. As Brown put it, they may be critical and complain, and he will hear them. But in the end, he’ll move on since it’s the only thing that will let him cope.

Brown did not use this tactic while he was at Texas. He was interacting at the time with players, lawmakers, sponsors, administrators, and fans, all of whom were presumably asking the same thing from him: victories.

With wins as its fuel, Texas football was a giant economic engine, and Brown was at its core. Playing for another national title to close off 2009, Brown had been feeding the machine for years, having won one at the end of the 2005 campaign. But before he was sent packing in 2013, he had difficult last years in Austin: 5-7, 8-5, 9-4, and 8-5. For a span of four years, every victory was vital, and every setback was catastrophic. At the end, even in triumph, there was not much happiness, as Brown stated to ESPN in 2019. Simply put, relief.

As the head coach of North Carolina, Brown remarked, “I got stuck within the hole where success becomes everything.” It’s a very scary and dark pit.

The location Swinney vowed to stay away from is at the bottom of that pit, where the duties associated with the job replace the joy of it. Sometimes you have to have an intervention with your own fan base to combat that thinking.

The supporters of NC State were incensed following a 24-21 victory against Virginia in September, and head coach Dave Doeren intended to underscore this to them. With the Wolfpack offense faltering, poor Virginia came dangerously close to pulling off an upset. As Doeren got comfortable for his postgame press conference, the atmosphere was solemn.

Doeren yelled, “S—, be happy we won.” “Playcalling, this, that, and the other are things that people want to complain at. Man, there are other things going on. We managed to overcome a motivated football squad while playing on the road.”

Fans, meanwhile, saw hints of weakness—a club that was creeping closer to certain doom.

A few weeks later, NC State was leading 10-0 at the half versus Louisville, who was not even rated at the time. As the Wolfpack left the field, they were met by a cacophony of jeers.

Even though NC State lost the game, Doeren didn’t let the situation become worse. The Wolfpack made a comeback, going 9-3 to end the regular season.

“The anticipation for a match in September, it’s the end of the year for your season even though there is so much football to be played,” Doeren stated. “I believe that victories should be cherished and defeats should be excruciating. However, it’s not the end of time.”

Stoops remembered that he didn’t bother to check his radio calls during his first five or six years at Oklahoma. He was interested in what people thought, yet because of his extraordinary success, he rarely heard criticism. But every now and then, somebody would say something that would really hurt him, and he would go home and pout until one day, his wife asked him, Why do you coach?

Stoops responded immediately. He was passionate about his work, the players, and the rivalry.

He was told to focus on that by his partner.

Subsequently, the radio calls were filtered, and Stoops had his mail examined by two employees, who eliminated any very critical messages before they reached his desk.

“You need to isolate yourself to safeguard your psyche,” Stoops stated.

While conversing with a buddy, Steve Spurrier abruptly brought up Florida’s overtime defeat against Tennessee in 1998. The Gators led the game, but they lost it in overtime due to a botched chip shot attempt. Spurrier told his friend about the last play, and even after all these years, it still hurt.

“I had to take a break and remind myself that Florida has won nine SEC titles in the school’s history, and our teams have won seven of them,” Spurrier remarked, adding an informal championship from his first year in 1990. “So I guess we did pretty good.”

Nevertheless, Spurrier received messages from several Gators supporters who were pleased to see him move on when he departed Florida following the 2001 season to take a position with the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Strange as it may sound, he had clearly declined since he had lost nine games in the three years before he left, finishing below the top five twice.

“It’s typical human behavior, I guess, when you’ve had an extensive bunch of achievements and then you go a few seasons without and fans say, ‘But, he does not have it anymore,'” said Spurrier.

In addition, Swinney has noticed indications of an aged infrastructure during the last three years—at least when compared to the astounding heights he had attained in the ten years prior. Clemson did not make it to the College Football Playoff in 2021, 2022, or 2023 after leading the team there six consecutive seasons. Tyler from Spartanburg’s call came right before the team’s fourth defeat of 2023, which meant that the Tigers would miss out on winning ten games for the first time since 2010 (albeit a bowl victory would constitute victory No. 9). Although it is toward the bottom of the list, Clemson is still ranked in the AP poll.

And based on this evidence, Swinney has been charged with egregious misconduct related to his team’s supervision.

The fees

With his current staff, Swinney has surrounding himself with yes-men who have little to no experience outside of their tenure at Clemson.

In the NIL era, Swinney’s moral concerns to formalizing college football have made it more difficult for Clemson to attract talent.

Due to Swinney’s reluctance to use the transfer site, his club is deficient in several crucial areas.

“It’s been said that I’m stubborn by some, but I firmly believe in my convictions, and I think not enough people share this sentiment,” Swinney bemoaned following Tyler’s call.

Swinney has changed, though.

Upon the 2022 Orange Bowl defeat, Swinney fired the team’s offensive coordinator Michael Streeter in favor of hiring Garrett Riley from TCU. At the conclusion of 2023, he added former Miss head coach Matt Luke and veteran SEC and NFL coordinator Chris Rumph to his staff.

Though Clemson is competitive in the NIL and has made investments to keep its athletes—building the brick-and-mortar Clemson Athlete Branding facility to help players maximize their opportunities—Swinney continues to advocate in support of the educational foundations of collegiate athletics.

Though backup quarterbacks have been Swinney’s greatest additions through the portal so far, he maintains that he is open to the proper players if they are open to Clemson.

Is he obstinate or convinced, then? Doeren, who related Swinney’s strategy to discussions he has had with his own staff over staying loyal to basic values while adjusting to a constantly changing marketplace, stated that Most likely, a combination of the two will respond.

“It’s a delicate balancing act,” stated Doeren. “You have to remain true to your personality and morals despite responding to the shifting time.” Our staff members must now decide whether to adapt or die. And none of us desire to pass away.”

So how do coaches find the ideal compromise? Coaches who talked with ESPN believe that having an inner circle with the authority to challenge the current quo is the solution.

Roy Williams, the former basketball coach at North Carolina, claimed to have employed a group of recognized coaches as sounding boards on a regular basis, including Bobby Knight, Dean Smith, Jerry Tarkanian, and John Thompson. Ruffin McNeill, the previous coach at ECU, has a similar position on Doeren’s staff, he added. As for Swinney, he has frequently relied on Woody McCorvey, his chief of football administration, as his voice of reason.

Alabama coach Nick Saban stated, “You rely on your staff.” It is how you attempt to mentally prepare your players to perform at the level required of them in order to add value to both our team and themselves. It requires full-time work.”

In 2014, Saban felt Alabama’s offensive performance was lagging behind and decided to try a different strategy. To instill an up-tempo mentality that deviated from the Tide’s previous championship teams’ DNA, he hired Lane Kiffin. Although the relationship was frequently tense, as Georgia Tech coach and former Alabama assistant Brent Key noted, Saban recognized the need of change as well as the difficulties in really putting it into practice. He brought on the outspoken Kiffin, Key guessed, because he was maybe the only coach in the nation capable of seriously challenging Saban without eventually giving in to the pressure of the head coach’s track record.

“Yes-men are great for your ego but not for manufacturing,” Doeren stated. “You need to surround yourself with positive role models who will challenge your way of thinking and steer your mind in the appropriate directions. That, in my opinion, promotes progress.

Jim Boeheim, a former basketball coach at Syracuse, said that there is a danger associated with adjusting to every new development in the game. Keeping your course during a storm is sometimes the safest route.

Regarding his renowned defensive strategy, Boeheim remarked, “They tell me this ten years ago about the [3-2] zone, after which we took it to the Sweet 16 and the Final Four.” “They’ll constantly come up with anything.”

defensive end for Clemson After six years of playing under Swinney, Xavier Thomas stated the greatest thing about Swinney is their coach’s constancy, which includes his unwavering belief in his players.

“He’s big on his requirements and his values,” said Thomas. “You aren’t hearing a lot of such behavior in today’s society — somebody saying the exact same ideas they genuinely value.”

However, the version of Clemson that Tyler from Spartanburg exposed to the external world is what Thomas is accustomed to seeing.

For gamers, a heated exchange with some PG-13 language during a workday is just another day at the job. It was a shocker to those who weren’t familiar with the aw-shucks Swinney he often plays on screen.

“We get that kind of coach all of the moment in meetings,” Thomas stated. “It was great to just put that out onto the globe and bring certain individuals down to earth.”

However, not many people inside the Clemson inner circle believe that Swinney’s candor on his radio program contributed to the Tigers’ season-ending four-game winning streak. That spur of motivation arrived one day earlier, out of the spotlight, when Swinney pushed his squad to show that it was worthy of victories.

The truth is that a public scorched-earth campaign seldom has many positive effects. Boeheim stated that it’s a waste of time, yet he doesn’t precisely regret any of his all-time picks. Saban acknowledged that it’s a diversion. Williams observed that no one’s opinion is going to be altered by their speeches.

However, there are instances when the pressure becomes so great that it needs to be released.

Spurrier stated, “The guy got to know him a little bit.” “But Theodore can talk for a while once you ask him something, and he was undoubtedly ready to let that out his mind.”

A radio call-in program featuring legendary Bulldogs basketball coach Hugh Durham caught Williams’ attention as he was recruiting in rural Georgia years ago. The coach ultimately had enough after a supporter went off about Durham’s recent setbacks. With a few expletives thrown in for good measure, Durham went go, saying something to the effect that the man was probably a plumber with an exposed rear and unfit to criticize a basketball coach. Williams added, “I nearly ran off the road laughing.”

When Williams and Durham finally played golf together a few seasons later, Williams recounted the tale with great relish as they marched along a fairway.

Durham said, “Boy, I’d just had enough.” “Occasionally, you’ve just got to say to people what you believe.”


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