Considering the investment in football this year and the potential return, there are a number of reasons Dabo Swinney cannot let today’s game with N.C. State slip through his fingers.
Players are tired of hearing “Clemson” as an adjective for an underachieving football team.
“You get tired of hearing Clemson is going to have that ‘Clemson game. They’ll mess it up,” senior center Dalton Freeman said. “This isn’t your grandpa’s Clemson. We’re not the same team.”
Not only would it be competitively painful to replicate last year’s bumbling finish to the regular season, it could be costly in selling Clemson to potential recruits if the program continues to feed the reputation for not closing the deal.
Two players withdrew commitments this week, including Robert Nkemdiche, the top prospect in the game this season. While their decisions don’t appear to be linked to Clemson’s current season, it’s the kind of momentum teams such as Alabama seldom seem to lose with sustained success.
Then there’s the potential campaigning for a prime spot in the polls and rankings.
After climbing to No. 9 in the coaches’ poll before the Florida State game, Clemson has won six in a row to reclaim most of the ground it lost in Tallahassee and sits 11th in the BCS despite the computer rankings’ disregard for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
A strong finish should place Clemson on the launching pad to a top-10 start in 2013. Presuming Swinney loses receiver DeAndre Hopkins early to the NFL draft, Clemson would return seven offensive starters, including quarterback Tajh Boyd, No. 2 in the nation in passing efficiency, and nine starters on defense.
Plus, another fade to black could leave Swinney lighter in the wallet.
A 10th win during the regular season is worth $30,000 — including $10,000 if the team continues to meet satisfactory academic standards. An 11th next week is worth $40,000 including the academic sidecar, superseding No. 10.
The big money comes during the bowl season. Even by missing the ACC championship — which was potentially worth $150,000 — Swinney would receive $175,000 if the team receives an invitation then wins a BCS bowl game. Just playing the game is worth $75,000, winning pays him another $100,000.
Should Florida State win the ACC championship, Clemson seems positioned for an at-large invitation to a BCS Bowl. ESPN’s projections this week put Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. Should the Tigers misstep, the Chick-fil-A seems the next best option and Swinney receives 1½ months of his base salary, which amounts to $245,000.
Swinney hit many of the incentives in his old contract last year, winning the conference championship and the automatic berth in the Orange Bowl. He was also the Bobby Dodd national coach of the year, which was worth $100,000.
Much of what was earmarked in the agreement, including the guaranteed bump in salary that came from winning the ACC, was redistributed to the staff. That’s how Chad Morris and Brent Venables became the highest-paid pair of coordinators in the country.