In a scene that bore the appearance of a farewell, Chad Morris shook a lot of hands after completing interviews Saturday in the bowels of Death Valley.
As offensive coordinator, he had overseen a performance in Clemson’s 35-17 victory that – for a team pocked by injury – was superior to any in nearly two months, the kind of game that gets noticed.
Morris confirmed he had spoken to SMU about its coaching vacancy. He would not address a report that this would be his final game with Clemson saying, “I’ve haven’t agreed to anything with SMU.”
Perhaps it was a blend of innocence and naivete, or the fact he hadn’t told them, that Clemson players did not believe Morris was going anywhere.
“Coach Morris is family,” said receiver Artavis Scott who was credited with 185 yards on seven receptions. “People talk about it, but those are just rumors.”
Despite playing a quarterback on a torn ACL, Clemson totaled 491 yards, including a season-high 191 yards rushing by redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman.
“If he tells us, that’s his business,” Gallman said. “I’d be disappointed, but that’s for his family and I’ve got to respect that because he’s my coach.”
Morris deflected questions by trying to remain focused on the team.
“It’s really not about me tonight, it’s about our kids and our fans,” he said. “When that time comes, I’ll come out and say what needs to be said.”
While helping thrust Clemson into the offensive elite, Morris made no secret of his wish to be a college head coach.
“If, in fact, it’s part of the plan in the near future, then we’ll go from there,” he said. “I do have a goal. When and where, we’ll find out soon enough. I’m extremely happy right here.”
Coach Dabo Swinney made Morris the highest paid assistant in college football two years ago with a $1.3 million salary. Multiple reports have SMU offering him a contract that would average $3 million annually plus a pool of money for a top staff. That was an issue in previous years when Morris investigated other jobs.
“If Chad has an opportunity and it’s something he wants to do and he feels good about, I wish him nothing but the best,” Swinney said. “He’s helped us, and we’ve helped him.”
SMU coach June Jones resigned after the second game of the season, and Morris’ name was instantly linked to the job. Swinney said he wasn’t aware how long Morris had been talking to SMU but added, “Nobody would be happier for him than me.”
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables was linked to the opening at Texas A&M last week. Like Morris, Venables became one of the highest paid coordinators in the country after coming to Clemson from Oklahoma.
“I’ve got a great job here. Are you kidding me?” said Venables. “Wherever that came from, it’s news to me. I’m a ‘be here’ kind of guy.”