Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney and basketball coach Brad Brownell rolled into Columbia on Thursday night to meet several hundred fans decked out in their finest orange at EdVenture Museum as part of IPTAY’s annual Prowl and Growl program.
Before each of them enjoyed barbecue, they took time to speak with The State about several topics — including the football program’s recent struggles in the rivalry against South Carolina.
Swinney has won an ACC championship and took the Tigers to their first BCS bowl but he has lost three consecutive games against the Gamecocks.
He feels his program is on good footing, as evidenced by Clemson claiming its first ACC title in 20 years. But he also knew, being nearly in the shadows of the USC campus and a couple of miles from Williams-Brice Stadium, that it would be a hot topic among the fans Thursday.
“I’m sure they will want to talk about what’s going on here in Columbia,” Swinney said. “It’s been tough for them the last few years so I know that is a hot topic for the people living right here in the back yard. I’m sure it doesn’t sit well with them and it doesn’t sit well with me. So I’m looking forward to a good night and we’ll answer their questions as best we can.”
The biggest national story of the past several weeks has been the latest tweaking of the BCS system. While hurdles remain, it’s expected that a four-team playoff will be in place by 2014.
“My opinion has been the same,” Swinney said. “If they were going to make a change, I’ve supported the Plus-One format and this sort of falls in line with that. The particulars and logistics of how it works out, we’ll wait and see. I think it will give us a better decision at the end of the deal. There will always be people disgruntled at the end but I think this is a good situation.”
Swinney long has been a supporter of the bowl system. He played in bowl games as a student-athlete at Alabama and has coached in several bowls. He feels, as long as the playoff format can keep the bowls intact, he is all for it.
“Bowl games are a wonderful tradition and experience that makes college unique,” Swinney said. “Our regular season is a playoff every week. It’s not like you lose two and say ‘let’s hang on to the end and see if we can get hot.’ You have to be hot every week in college football and that’s what makes it so exciting for everyone.”
Brownell, on the other hand, has a more pressing situation that needs to be addressed.
A couple of weeks after hiring assistant coach James Johnson away from Virginia Tech, Brownell watched as Johnson returned to Blacksburg to take the head coaching position after the Hokies unexpectedly fired former head coach Seth Greenberg.
He was happy to see Johnson have the chance to lead a program, but the flip-flop put the Tigers a little behind during the April recruiting period. May and June is a dead period for basketball recruiting, which will heat back up during the July evaluation period.
While Brownell is not happy to be without a top assistant, he says the timing of the situation lessens the urgency of making another hire.
“As far as our situation goes, it’s on hold for a while,” Brownell said. “I’m going to take my time right now. I certainly have some people in mind that I want to bring down and talk to and spend some time with them. It’s not a busy time right now with recruiting on hold so it gives me a chance to look through some things before making a decision.”
Both coaches enjoyed the opportunity to meet with and get feedback from the fans.
“It’s very enjoyable to be able to come to our fans,” Brownell said. “The fans do a great job of coming to Clemson for football, basketball and baseball. They are very passionate, and for us to come out and just say thanks is something I know they appreciate.”