Dabo's deal has some quirks

Swinney perhaps lowest-paid coach in ACC but has lots of incentives

pstrelow@thestate.comApril 24, 2009 

orange and white

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney walks across the field during Clemson's Orange and White spring football scrimmage at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C., Saturday, April 11, 2009.


  • Contract details

    Five-year deal. Total annual value: $800,000 ($250,000 base salary, $550,000 in TV/radio/endorsement)

    • Clemson owes him a $750,000 bonus at end of contract

    • No buyout clause. Swinney can walk away without penalty. Clemson would owe him the $750,000 longevity bonus if it fires him.

    • If Clemson makes the ACC title game, Swinney’s salary that year will at least equal the median among ACC coaches (between $1.5 million and $1.6 million last year)

    • Among the fringe benefits: two cars; 10 tickets to every football game, six tickets to every home basketball game and five to every baseball game; a 22-seat executive suite for home football games; and a country club membership worth $10,000 maximum.

    • Swinney receives a $50,000 bonus if Clemson’s graduation success rate and APR are at least equal to the median for ACC and SEC schools combined.

CLEMSON — The terms of Dabo Swinney’s contract to be Clemson’s football coach reflect how rare it is for a school to promote the receivers coach to be the head coach.

It is not your typical arrangement.

Swinney, 39, will receive $800,000 annually in guaranteed compensation, perhaps ranking him as the lowest-paid coach in the ACC.

The lowest known salary belongs to North Carolina State’s Tom O’Brien, at $1.1 million. Boston College coach Frank Spaziani’s salary is not public record because the school is a private institution.

Furthermore, Swinney can walk away from his five-year contract at any time without financial penalty. Should Clemson fire him, it would owe him the $750,000 he is due at contract’s end as a longevity bonus.

Swinney’s contract, recently signed despite his hiring in December, was released Thursday as a result of a public-records request by several media outlets, including The State.

Neither Swinney nor athletics director Terry Don Phillips could be reached for comment.

Swinney will make $1 million less than former coach Tommy Bowden, and the Tigers will pay this year’s staff $747,000 less than last year’s in guaranteed income.

After giving Bowden an extension a year earlier based on the team’s potential, Clemson only will pay Swinney handsomely if the Tigers reach the the ACC championship game.

If that happens, Swinney’s total guaranteed compensation will, for that year, be at least equal to the median total compensation among the ACC’s other coaches.

The league’s sixth- and seventh-highest-paid coaches last year were Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen (at least $1.55 million) and Duke’s David Cutcliffe ($1.5 million), respectively.

If Clemson wins the ACC championship, Swinney’s total pay for that year must at least match the average total pay of the seven highest-paid coaches in the league (about $1.783 million last year).

The school can deduct the amount of bonus money Swinney would receive if it gives raises to Clemson’s assistants or if Swinney desires to create another administrative position for his staff.

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