Remember when Will Muschamp almost became the Clemson football coach?


Most Clemson football fans have probably forgotten, but there was a point where Will Muschamp was a legitimate candidate for the Head Coaching position.

It was an era that most Clemson football fans probably want to forget.

In 2008, the start of something magical happened following the firing of Tommy Bowden. Bowden recommended a young upstart assistant by the name of Dabo Swinney to take over as the Interim, and Clemson Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips obliged.

Nearly 11 seasons later, Dabo Swinney has led the Clemson football program to five ACC Championship wins, two National Titles, four CFB Playoff appearances, several key bowl wins, and has a winning percentage of more than 80 percent.

But all of that almost didn’t happen.

As we head into rivalry weekend, there are two fascinating pieces of information that have to do with the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry and how it pertained to Dabo Swinney’s hiring.

First of all, Swinney would’ve never been offered the job had he not beaten South Carolina during that 2008 interim season. As the Tigers entered the matchup with the Gamecocks, Swinney’s status was less than secure.

Swinney had led Clemson football to just a 3-2 record since taking over the Head Coaching responsibilities and there were certainly mixed feelings about removing the ‘Interim’ tag. However, a 31-14 win over the Gamecocks gave Terry Don Phillips the confidence he needed to take a chance on Swinney.

But let’s not pretend that all Clemson football fans were sold.

There were many Tiger fans who were less-than-enthused with the hiring of Swinney. Many fans and boosters wanted Clemson to go after a big name. They wanted a coach with more experience and momentum behind him. Throughout the process, many names were associated with the job search including Mike Leach, Todd Graham, Skip Holtz, Lane Kiffin, Gary Patterson, Brady Hoke and even Tommy Turbeville- who was on the cusp of being fired at Auburn.

One of the hottest names on the market during that time, though, was a surging Defensive Coordinator for University of Texas by the name of Will Muschamp.

Honestly, had you asked 1,000 Clemson football fans during 2008 if they’d be happy with a Muschamp hire, 998 would’ve been extremely enthusiastic. Many internet boards and websites pegged Muschamp as potentially the best fit and one of the shortlist candidates for the job.

What a crazy world we live…

In all truthfulness, there was really only one thing that stopped Terry Don Phillips from interviewing with Muschamp: Muschamp was given the ‘head-coach-in-waiting’ tag from Texas’s Mack Brown, according to Tiger Illustrated, and that was enough to keep him with the Longhorns for the entirety of Clemson’s coaching search.

Two years later, Muschamp would leave Texas for the head-coaching job at Florida- replacing Urban Meyer- and the rest is history.

As we head into Rivalry week, you have to wonder what would’ve happened had Dabo Swinney not come away with that win over the Gamecocks years ago. There’s a large-percentage-chance that Swinney is never hired as the head coach and that the Tigers pursue Muschamp harder than before.

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It’s a timeline of events that have spewed into Clemson becoming a National Powerhouse, but the reality is the Tigers were only a few steps in an opposite direction away from potentially having Will Muschamp as their head coach in the place of Dabo Swinney.

What a difference a single decision can make.