Dabo Swinney and Clemson just lost to South Carolina by three touchdowns at home in 2010 to cap a 6-6 regular season when Swinney’s wife approached him to let him know Tigers athletics director Terry Don Phillips was waiting in Swinney’s office.
Swinney, who was hired two years earlier, believed he could turn Clemson’s program into a power, but was afraid he wouldn’t get the chance.
When he arrived to his office, Phillips was seated on the couch with the lights off. Swinney thought for sure he was being fired.
“I said to myself, ‘I did the best I could do. I’m thankful for the opportunity, and God never says oops,’ ” Swinney recalled.
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Instead of being fired, Swinney was given a vote of confidence. Phillips assured Swinney that he believed in him as Clemson’s coach.
“He just looked at me and said, ‘Dabo, let me tell you something. I know you’re disappointed, and there’s going to be a lot of criticism for you and me. … But I’m more confident right now in this moment that you’re the guy for this job than I was when I hired you. You do whatever you need to do. Continue to do things the way you’ve been doing them, and I believe in all my heart things are going to work out,’ ” Swinney said.
Clemson has won at least 10 games every year since, with three ACC titles and back-to-back College Football Playoff title game appearances.
Swinney said he appreciates Phillips believing in him.
“You’ve got to have some belief and vision to achieve anything great,” Swinney said. “If you don’t believe in you nobody else is going to believe in you. I give Terry Don Phillips a ton of credit for believing in me when I needed it.”
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Clemson’s defensive front has been one of the best in the nation this season, but it will get a tough test from Alabama on Monday.
The Crimson Tide rush for an average of 247 yards per game and have allowed 24 sacks in 14 games. Clemson’s third nationally in sacks with 49.
“Everybody up front is going to play on Sunday’s. … They’re all great. Every single one of them,” Swinney said of Alabama’s offensive line. “We’re good on the D-line. They’re good on the O-line. It comes down to that matchup.”
Some Alabama teams in the past have been conservative on offense, relying mostly on their power run game. Swinney said this Crimson Tide team opens up the playbook and gets its playmakers involved in a variety of ways.
“They make you defend the whole field,” Swinney said. “That’s another thing that’s a little different from the Alabama of old. They’re going to stretch you horizontally, vertically. They play with some tempo. … They do a nice job of utilizing their personnel and making you defend the whole field.”