Steve Spurrier’s resignation at South Carolina came seven years to the day that Dabo Swinney was crowned interim head coach at Clemson, a coincidence that speaks to the seismic shift in the college football landscape during those intervening years.
The billions generated by college football and the millions paid to the men who shape the game are loathe to masking the pressure to succeed. Over the weekend, coaches were fired at Maryland and Southern Cal, Spurrier resigned and Swinney went postal on a reporter because he doesn’t believe Clemson receives the respect it deserves.
Swinney would not criticize Spurrier’s timing. Six games into the 2008 season, Terry Don Phillips selected him to replace Tommy Bowden.
“The game of football, the business of college football from a coaching standpoint, has changed,” Swinney said Tuesday. “It’s a shame to see what’s going on. It’s hard. It’s hard to win – a game – much less consistently year in and year out, to be able to sustain that. It’s very difficult.”
Swinney said he avoids being trapped by the madness by maintaining a balance in his life.
“It’s more and more of an issue now where you’re seeing coaches being fired after two games,” he said. “That’s just the world we’re in.
“The amount of money and things like that, it puts more pressure on everybody, but I don’t live my life that way.”
Spurrier resigned because he decided it was time for him to do so. Swinney described him as a winner, an innovator and “one of the best to ever walk the sideline.” He admired Spurrier for his principles.
Swinney said he began competing as a player against Spurrier’s perennial powerhouses at Florida, later recruiting against him as an Alabama assistant coach then as head coach at Clemson.
“South Carolina’s been around a long, long time and he took that program to a level they’ve never seen before,” Swinney said. “I guess I’m the unfortunate one to be at Clemson during the greatest run in the history of the school.”
“He’s great for college football. I have a ton of respect for him,” he said. “One thing I say about Coach Spurrier, he’s been consistent his whole career about who he is. He’s been himself and he’s a winner.”
Despite the schools’ rivalry, the coaches developed a kinship. Spurrier returned his call Tuesday morning, but Swinney would not characterize the nature of the conversation.
“At the end of the day, everybody has to make their own decision and live with that decision,” he said. “I’m not going to put myself in those shoes and judge Coach Spurrier. He’s got a long legacy.”
Swinney can be poignant when describing what Oct. 8, 2008 means to him. He had chances to leave Clemson before that day, and he’s believes beating Spurrier that season probably clinched his job.
“We really have a mutual respect for one another,” Swinney said... “I would bet it won’t be the last time we’ll hear from Coach Spurrier.
“He’ll still, I’m sure, be relevant to college football for many years to come.”