Clemson football: Coach Swinney will go down as greatest coach of all-time


Coach Dabo Swinney is entering his 13th season at the helm of Clemson football. He is currently on track to become the all-time winningest coach in college football history. Something no one wants to talk about.

When Dabo Swinney was given the opportunity to coach Clemson football on an interim basis, no one could have foreseen the level of success that he has achieved in such a short time. With the roaring 20s ahead of us, Coach Swinney will solidify himself as the greatest coach in college football history.

While this may initially come off as some hot take, facts actually back up this statement. Think of this as a hypothesis as we run an experiment to prove or disprove this theory.

The five all-time winningest coaches in major college football history are as follows – Joe Paterno (409), Bobby Bowden (357), Bear Bryant (323), Pop Warner (311) and Amos Stagg (282). Current Alabama head coach Nick Saban is actually ninth on the all-time wins list with 248 wins.

It’s not exactly fair to coaches of old to compare wins as most teams played far less than teams do now. Amos Stagg is the exception as he played a few different 17 and 18 game seasons early in his career. But we will look at both wins and of course win percentage. In addition, we will look at the number of national titles each coach won in their first 12 seasons as a head coach.

1. Joe Paterno, Penn State, 1966-2011

In JoePa’s first 12 seasons at the helm of Penn State, they won 101 of the 126 games that they played. That is a staggering win percentage of .801. He had several undefeated seasons and were in the national championship conversation a couple of times; however, they did not win any. In his first 12 years at Penn State, the Nittany Lions went 101-24-1.

2. Bobby Bowden, West Virginia/FSU, 1970-1981

Bobby Bowden was known as a coach that would schedule anyone and play them anywhere, which is exactly how he built FSU into a national power. From 1987 through 2001, FSU would finish in the Top 5 of every AP poll, a run that will be hard to top.

During his first 12 seasons, Bowden coach teams won 67 percent of their games and had a win/loss record of 92-45. Bowden didn’t win his first national title until 1993.

3. Bear Bryant, Maryland/Kentucky/Texas A&M, 1945-1956

Considered the greatest coach in college football history and one that every coach is measured against, though that will change at some point in the near future with the success that both Saban and Swinney are having.

Bryant was not all that great early in his career, a lot of that probably had to do with three stops in his first decade, though he was at Kentucky for eight of those seasons. Bryant coached teams had a win percentage of 69 percent and an overall record of 83-36. He also did not win a national championship.

4. Pop Warner, Cornell/Carlisle, 1897-1908

Pop Warner coached back and forth at both Cornell and Carlisle for the first 12 years of his career. He spent a few years at each before going back to the other. During his time, the two schools went 95-34 winning 73 percent of their games but like the previous three coaches, did not win a national title.

5. Amos Stagg, Springfield/Chicago, 1891-1902

Amos Stagg spent 41 of his 43 years coaching at Chicago after spending his first season at Springfield. Chicago played as many as 22 games in a season under Stagg, something that would never happen today. Between 1898 and 1903, they would play no less than 15 games in a single season.

Stagg would win a respectable 125 games over his first 12 seasons, with an overall record of 125-43 and a 74 percent win percentage. No national for Chicago.

9. Nick Saban, Michigan State/LSU/Alabama, 1990-2007

Nick Saban was an assistant for 17 seasons before getting a chance at Michigan State to be a head coach. Between his stints at Michigan State and LSU and then LSU and Alabama, he left to be an NFL assistant in Cleveland in then the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

Since his return to college football in 2007, he has led Alabama to five national titles, six SEC titles and a couple more national championship appearances. By the time he retires, he may not be the all-time winningest coach, but he will be considered the best.

During his first 12 seasons as a college head coach, he won 98 games, had a win percentage of 67 percent and won one national title.

All that said, when looking at wins in their first 12 seasons in charge of Clemson football, Swinney has amassed a record of 130-31 which is an 80.7 win percentage and two national championships. He is second to only Amos Stagg and Swinney alone has the best win percentage of all of these coaches. At his current pace Swinney could pass Joe Paterno should he coach into his 70’s, though he more than likely will hang it up long before then.

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Swinney winning two national titles in his first 12 seasons is what sets him apart from all these great coaches and doing so before turning 50 years of age, definitely sets him apart. By the time his career as a head coach is over, he will overtake both Saban and Bryant as the coach with the most national titles.

As Coach Swinney always says, the best is yet to come.