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Aug 28, 2019

The Last Word: The Best Is Yet to Come

By: Tim Bourret

Note: The following appears in the August 2019 issue of Orange: The Experience.

Dabo Swinney will begin his second decade of full seasons as Clemson head football coach on Thursday, Aug. 29, when the Tigers play Georgia Tech in the season opener in Death Valley, the first game broadcast on the new ACC Network.   

That day, we will celebrate the second National Championship under his tenure. Raise your hand if you saw that coming the day he was named interim head coach (Oct. 13, 2008). He had never been a head coach at any level and never even been a coordinator, a fact that the national media repeated over and over during his 49 days as an interim.

Dabo always says that “the best is yet to come,” but let’s take a look at what the program has accomplished under his direction in those first 10 years.

  • Won two National Championships in a three-year period, something that has been done by just five other programs in the last 40 years (Alabama, Florida, Southern California, Nebraska and Miami).
  • Joins former men’s soccer Coach Dr. I.M. Ibrahim as the only coaches in Clemson athletics history to win two National Championships.
  • Only coach in history to win the National Championship while playing the most difficult schedule as listed by the NCAA (based on opponent winning percentage) twice.
  • Only coach in college football history to record a higher or break-even national ranking in the final poll compared to its preseason poll in eight consecutive years. No other coach has done it more than five times.
  • Led the Tigers to a 55-4 record over the last four years, which is tied for the most wins (Alabama 55-4 in the same four years) in a four-year period in college football history.
  • Joins Nick Saban of Alabama as the only coaches to take a team to the College Football Playoff four
    consecutive years.
  • Clemson has been ranked in the top four of the College Football Playoff poll each of the last 24 polls, which is every poll of the last four years.
  • The Tigers have won at least 10 games eight consecutive years, which is tied for the fourth-longest streak of 10-win seasons in college football history.
  • Guided Clemson to a 15-0 record in 2018, making the Tigers the first 15-0 team in college football since 1897.
  • Became just the third program since 1980 to win the National Championship and the AFCA Academic Achievement Award in the same year (2018).
  • Clemson has been among the top-10 percentage of all college programs in terms of APR scores eight of the last nine years. Only Duke and Northwestern have also been in the top-10 percent eight of the last nine years.
  • Clemson’s 992 APR score last year was tied for the third-best in the nation.  
  • Of 223 eligible senior lettermen and early graduates in Dabo Swinney’s 10 full years as head coach, 218 (97 percent) have earned a degree.
  • First coach to win the Bear Bryant Award as National Coach of the Year three times. He won the honor in 2015, 2016 and 2018.  He is also the only coach to win the honor in consecutive years.
  • Won four consecutive league championship games. Only the University of Florida has also won four straight conference championship games, and the Tigers can break that mark with an ACC title this year.
  • Enters the 2019 season with a streak of 59 consecutive top-10 rankings, which is tied for the longest active streak with Alabama and tied for the 12th-longest streak in the history of the AP poll, which dates to 1936.
  • Has recorded a 116-30 overall record for a .795 winning percentage, the 18th-best percentage in college football history among coaches with at least 10 years of experience. His career winning percentage is higher than Nick Saban, Bear Bryant, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, among others.
  • Has coached nine consensus All-Americans in his 10 seasons, including three in 2018, the most in one season in school history.
  • Swinney has nine bowl victories, which is already tied for 16th in college football history and tied for fifth among active coaches. Seven of the nine wins have come against
    top-10 teams.

That is quite a list for the first 10 years of a college football coaching resume. If the “best is yet to come,” I can’t wait to experience it.