Clemson’s Dabo Swinney Was ‘Scared To Death’ Of ‘Crusty’ ACC Coaches

Dabo Swinney’s 14th season as Clemson’s head coach looks considerably different than his first. Not only have the Tigers turned into a perennial championship contender, but Swinney now finds himself as the ACC’s longest tenured coach.

He’s also no longer intimidated by the conference’s coaches, being that he’s now its elder statesman.

“You walk into that meeting and…it’s a bunch of crusty dudes that I didn’t know and I’m scared to death,” Swinney told Scott Keepfer of the Greenville News. Clemson’s 52-year-old coach was referring to the first time he walked into an ACC coaches meeting back in 2009.

At the time, Swinney was surrounded by conference mainstays like Bobby Bowden, Ralph Friedgen, Al Groh and other well-regarded coaches.


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Swinney, who’s Tigers are ranked fourth in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll, further remembered that initial coaches meeting and the uneasiness that came with it.

“Friedgen just had this persona. Tom O’Brien, he was like a drill sergeant,” Swinney told Keepfer. “Bobby Bowden had a USA TODAY over his face and was asleep over in the corner, so I’m not sitting by him.”

He continued: “Paul Johnson, he just beat me as an interim (coach), so I’m not sitting by Paul. I just remember walking in that room and going, ‘OK, this is happening. I’m in here.’ ”


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Of that initial group of coaches, Swinney is the last man standing – a veteran of 13 seasons, 150 wins and two national championships. Few would’ve expected such success, especially when he entered the conference somewhat intimidated.

“I guess whoever took the over on me won,” said Swinney. “There’s a lot of people that lost on the under, that’s for sure.”

Dabo Swinney
Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers talks to quarterback Trevor Lawrence #16 before the game against Florida State on October 27, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images).

Accompanying Swinney’s success is a sincere interest in avoiding becoming the type of “crusty” coach he encountered all those years ago.

“I like all those new guys,” added Swinney. “I try to go out of my way to welcome all those guys because I know what it’s like to walk into that room and that setting, with peers like that.”

He has a chance to extend inter-conference pleasantries when Clemson begins their season by visiting ACC foe Georgia Tech on September 5th.


Follow along on Twitter: @OhioAF

Written by Anthony Farris

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