Clemson Football wrapped up Early Signing Day with a press conference from head coach Dabo Swinney. As usual, he had a few quotable moments.
He mentioned that some veteran players who are returning could be the best recruits in this class. He isn’t saying who might be returning yet, but it has led to speculation.
He also discussed his preference for an August Early Signing Period so high school players can completely wrap up their recruitments before their senior season. He repeated his support for re-instituting the one-year wait period for transfers who haven’t earned their undergraduate degrees. He said players need to have a crockpot mentality, not a microwave mentality.
Not surprisingly, the quote that has gotten the most attention nationally is this one:
As you might expect, this created a variety of responses. Some people teased him because they thought it was corny. Some focused more on the NIL side of things, noting that once again Swinney has refused to play ball in the NIL arena, or at least refused to play the game the way everyone else plays it.
Others took exception to his mentioning God and referencing his Christianity. Some of the remarks mocked him for expressing his religion. Some remarks were from Christians who took exception to his comments, believing him to be using religion for his personal gain as a football coach.
This isn’t the first time Swinney has been criticized for referencing his religion. The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent letters of complaint about Swinney’s open comments about his faith. Almost every time Dabo mentions his Christianity or God in his press conferences, plenty of people have something to say about it on social media.
Let’s be honest though: some people aren’t really ripping Dabo because he is openly Christian. They’re ripping him because he is Dabo Swinney, head coach of the Clemson Tigers. He isn’t a supporter of using NIL the way other schools use it. He isn’t a supporter of consequence-free transfers for non-graduates. They don’t like his personality. He uses too many catch-phrases or makes jokes they don’t think are funny.
For others, it’s about football. Swinney simply isn’t the coach of their favorite team. They think Clemson plays in a cupcake league and doesn’t deserve to be peers of their favorite teams. They are still sensitive because they think the refs got a call wrong that benefited Clemson. They didn’t like how Swinney ranked their team in a coach’s poll that was relevant to absolutely nothing whatsoever. I mean, I could do this all day.
They simply troll because they don’t like Dabo. This is their chance to not like Dabo again. This is their chance to post or retweet something Dabo said because that will get more clicks and likes than any of their takes will get on any other day of the week.
Today he said something about his faith, but next month it will be about something completely different. They will still make fun of him running down the hill or dancing like a dad. They will still call Clemson fans ‘cult members’ for defending him. That isn’t likely to change any time soon.
Dabo Swinney’s faith has created far more positives for Clemson Football than the negativity created by trolls on social media
Sometimes you have to look for them, but there are usually a fair number of posts and comments supporting Swinney, his openness about his faith and how it has shaped his professional life. They tend to get drowned out by all the negativity but they are there if you look for them. I think it is fair to say that the audience Swinney was speaking to isn’t the crowd making crass statements on social media.
Swinney is speaking to Clemson fans who appreciate his approach to building a program and a culture. He is speaking to parents whose children may want to attend Clemson University. He is speaking to parents whose children might one day be recruited by Clemson.
He isn’t speaking to everyone. He can’t make everyone happy. What he can do is build and maintain the program in a way that best reflects his values. He may run Clemson’s program differently than most coaches, but it has worked. It still works, and despite people predicting the end of Clemson’s relevance, there is no evidence to suggest that it won’t continue to work.
If anything, Clemson is among the most stable programs in college football. If the biggest problem Dabo’s faith causes for the Tigers is negativity created by trolls on social media, I’m good with that. All of the rest of the evidence says Swinney has Clemson positioned as well as it can be in today’s world of college football.