Last week, Dabo Swinney’s name was all over social media and in the mouths of talking heads all over the country. Why? Because Dabo shared his feelings about NIL, compensation for coaches and his objections to the professionalization of sports.
Well, it’s not really about what he said. Not anymore. What Dabo says these days is far less critical than the clicks and attention that some writers can get by putting his name in a headline and then spinning the negative narrative to cash in on the dislike many outside of Clemson Nation have for him.
"“He is holier than thou, I mean we’re talking about Dabo Swinney here, and Dabo is not in favor of player rights. I mean, he survived. But it’s obvious that Dabo is not for today’s players getting their due. Now, I’m not saying everyone is. But if you’re going to exist in 2022, you need to stop with the self-righteous routine.”"
Tough rhetoric from a sports show host known to the lean on the side of entertainment more so than integrity, but he wasn’t alone.
There are plenty more that you can find on Twitter and the internet – Dan Wolken, Ari Wasserman, Mina Kimes – all the usual suspects.
The tone changes for many when other coaches make statements that have a very similar theme, such as Nick Saban. When you read Finebaum’s reaction to Saban calling the current NIL landscape “unsustainable”, suddenly he becomes very professional and intellectual in his assessment of the claim, leaving out all hyperbole and mudslinging.
Now, another SEC West coach has point blank said that what Dabo said was right.
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin revealed he texted Dabo after his comments were made public.
"“I read that — I actually texted him, ‘Good job,’ on it because it is. I’m for the kids making money. It’s just there’s no — I said it from Day 1. No salary cap in the NFL — how does that work? And different teams have different money, and there’s no real contracts off it because they’re not necessarily locked in. So technically, everybody could be a free agent every year. And really — think about how messed up the system is. If you’re a great player — you’re Bryce Young after the national championship last year. You should go in the portal — even if you wanted to stay at Alabama, ’cause all you’ll do is drive up your price there, because then the collectives, they’ll suddenly come with a lot of money, Alabama people to keep you. So what would any player do — to opt into a free agency every year? They would do it, test the market, and get the most you could.”"
Kiffin has been outspoken about NIL before, and tactfully took a few shots at Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher for the rumored enormous amount of money Aggie collectives put towards NIL deals to reel in the best class in college football history.
There are a handful of people on social media roasting Dabo, Saban & Kiffin equally, but most of the big-time sports people that filled their click & view quotas by trashing Dabo have steered clear of doing the same to Saban and Kiffin.
I’m the first to admit Dabo isn’t perfect. He doesn’t always say things with eloquence, and there have been occasions when he definitely deserved criticism. Even so, these days it’s become something of a sports media trope to thrash Dabo for speaking up, and then backtrack when coaches they fear (Saban) or love (Kiffin) say the same thing.