Clemson University

How the Alabama clause in Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s contract came about

The first two things that stood out about Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney’s new contract that he received at last month’s board of trustees meeting were the length and the money involved.

Swinney’s new 10-year, $93 million deal makes him the second-highest paid coach in college football per year behind only Nick Saban, and the $93 million is the largest contract in college football history.

But if you dig a little deeper into Swinney’s deal and get to the buyout portion of the contract, there is an interesting Alabama clause involved.

If Swinney leaves for a college head coaching position between now and 2020 his buyout is $4 million, with that number decreasing to $3 million in 2021, $2 million in 2023 and reaching its lowest point at $1 million in 2026.

If Swinney leaves to become the head coach at Alabama before his contract ends, which there has been speculation about for years, Clemson will receive an extra 50% on top of the regular buyout.

Swinney spoke about how the Alabama portion of the buyout came about at a Prowl and Growl event in Florence last week.

“That came from the school and their proposal, and I didn’t have a problem with it. This contract was all about a mutual commitment to each other, Clemson and myself,” Swinney said. “And so I didn’t have any issues with it at all. Just honored to be able to be the coach here. It’s been a great decade and hopefully we can have another decade. And maybe another decade after that.”

There is no buyout for Swinney if he leaves to take an NFL job.

Swinney played at Alabama and was an assistant at Alabama before coming to Clemson in 2003 as a receivers coach. He has been with the Tigers ever since and has been the head coach at Clemson since the middle of the 2008 season when he took over as the interim head coach.

Swinney never imagined when he got into coaching that he would one day sign the largest contract in college football history.

“It’s kind of crazy to think about it. I’ve come a long way, that’s for sure,” Swinney said. “But just blessed to have been around a lot of great people along the way and just try to be a good steward of all the blessings God has given me, and hopefully, like I said, we can be here for a long time.”

While the money is nice, Swinney hopes more than anything that the contract shows a commitment between the two parties.

“That was what everybody wanted the message to be through this contract. Not the numbers or anything like that. The market is what it is. There’s a market. There’s all of that stuff that they look at when they’re trying to pull all of that stuff together,” Swinney said. “But at the end of the day I think the term was more the message and the type of commitment that I wanted to make and that the school wanted to make. To me that’s more of the focus than anything else.”