Clemson University

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney takes strong stance against playoff expansion

There has been talk this week that the College Football Playoff could expand from four teams to eight teams sooner rather than later.

The Athletic reported Wednesday that “there is a groundswell of support to expedite expansion” before the end of the current contract with ESPN, which runs out in 2026. And the article quoted Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez as stating that expansion taking place soon at least needs to start being discussed.

But Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who has led his team to the College Football Playoff each of the past four years, made it clear Friday afternoon that he is against playoff expansion.

“I’d be more back to two, to be honest with you. I’m not a ‘More is better’ guy,” Swinney said. “I know there’s a huge crowd out there for that, but I think college football is unique, and now all of a sudden it just becomes like everything else when you do that.”

There are 39 bowl games being held this season, and Swinney likes the fact that there will be 39 teams celebrating a win at the end of the year. He added that expanding the playoff makes the bowl games less meaningful.

“I love that about college football. I love all the funky matchups. I love the Funky Cold Medina Poulan Weed Eater Bowl. I love all of that. I like the crazy games,” Swinney said. “There’s obviously a market for it because them TVs love to put it on there. I love the trips that I’ve experienced as a player and a coach.”

Some college players who are entering the NFL draft are choosing to sit out their bowl games in 2018, a recent trend that Swinney disagrees with.

He blames the creation of the College Football Playoff for some players choosing to skip their bowls to begin preparing for the draft. Swinney believes that expanding the playoff will lead to even more players skipping bowl games.

“I hate the fact that all of a sudden now it’s not cool to go to the Gator Bowl. Are you kidding me? I don’t like that mindset,” Swinney said. “I think the more you expand the more that becomes (the norm). I know that falls on a lot of deaf ears. It doesn’t mean I’m right. That’s just my opinion. I’m not telling anybody else they’re wrong. They can have the opinion whatever they want to have. But I love the passion of college football, and I think the more you expand the less the season matters.”

Swinney would like to see playoff spots reserved for the truly elite teams in the sport.

“Now all of a sudden, ‘Oh, well we’re in the playoff. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 9-3 or 8-4. You’re in the playoffs so who cares?’ Games don’t matter anymore,” Swinney said. “Some of the games you don’t even play them, you just sit everybody. I think that would creep in more and more and more. I don’t get a vote, but that’s my opinion.”

While Swinney does not like the idea of College Football Playoff expansion, he says that the Tigers will be ready when and if it comes.

“If we expand I’ll embrace that and we’ll rock and roll,” Swinney said. “I love my job. I love what I do. And I’ll embrace whatever people who make those decisions say. I don’t make those decisions. I just abide by the rules and go do it. But I’ve always believed in that.”

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Matt Connolly is the Clemson beat writer and covers recruiting and college sports for The State newspaper and The