Dabo Swinney’s tirade on call-in show could signal beginning of the end

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney speaks in the Smart Family Media Center at the Smart Family Media Center at the Poe Indoor Practice Facility in Clemson, S.C. Tuesday, Oct 24, 2023.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney speaks in the Smart Family Media Center at the Smart Family Media Center at the Poe Indoor Practice Facility in Clemson, S.C. Tuesday, Oct 24, 2023. /

Dabo Swinney has never been one to mince words, but on Monday’s edition of his “Tiger Calls” radio call-in show, the Clemson head coach may have gone too far.

With the Clemson football team mired in the middle of a disappointing 4-4 season, some fans have become impatient with Swinney and his refusal to change certain tactics (namely, better utilizing the transfer portal and NIL dollars).

One such fan was Tyler from Spartanburg, who called in and questioned the validity of Swinney’s salary, comparing him to former head coach Tommy Bowden and wondering why the school pays their head coach $10.8 million “to go 4-4.”

From that point on, it was gloves off for Swinney, who let what seemed like more than a season’s worth of frustrations out in a 5-minute rant aimed at Tyler from Spartanburg.

Swinney accused the caller of being “part of the problem” multiple times in his lengthy response and took to listing off his own personal accomplishments while questioning the choices that Tyler may have made in his life.

"“But part of the problem is the appreciation. I used to tell people all the time, they’d say, ‘What’s the difference in Clemson?’ Let me tell you: At some places, there’s an expectation, but at Clemson, there’s an appreciation. And what’s happened at Clemson is we’ve won so much that it used to be the fun is in the winning. Now even when you win, people like you complain and criticize the coaches and question everything. People like you.“When I hired Tony Elliott to be the offensive coordinator who never called a play in his life, I’m sure you were critical then, and he took us to two national championships. People like you who just love to destroy people with your comments. I’m sure you’ve never made any bad decisions. I’m sure you’ve lived a perfect life. I’m sure you’ve led a bunch of people. I’m sure you do your job.”"

Swinney just kept going and going until he finally concluded his tirade with a message to those in charge at Clemson as well as Tyler.

"“But I’m the head coach and I’m going to do what I believe is right for the long term of this program, what’s best for the players and what I think’s best for the moment. If you got a problem with that, that’s fine, but I’m not gonna see you sit here and let you call in. I don’t give a crap how much money I make. You ain’t gonna talk to me like I’m 12 years old. You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me.”"

The honest truth is, that Swinney’s reaction (or overreaction) can almost seem justifiable. Every man has a breaking point, and it seems that the Clemson head coach has roamed the sidelines with a target on his chest for far too long.

But that can’t excuse everything.

In listening to his tone and some of the words that he carefully chose, it almost sounded like Swinney was daring the higher-ups at Clemson to dismiss him. Some of his more combative comments sounded as if he was trying to give them a reason to send a pink slip with his next paycheck.

And then, to add more fuel to the fire, Dabo made a comment that probably raised more than a few eyebrows around Clemson.

Is this the beginning of the end for the Dabo Swinney at Clemson?

A 4-4 season is not good for any Division 1 program, less yet one whose fans are accustomed to regularly winning conference titles and being part of the national championship discussion. More than one top-tier program has rebounded from such seasons. It’s no reason to bring into question the salary that a head coach has worked for and earned.

It’s bad enough that the media and opposing fan bases continually question Dabo Swinney’s decisions, his faith, and even his abilities. Most coaches can shake that off. But when your home fans begin to turn, even Swinney isn’t immune to looking for other opportunities.

Everything Dabo said in his response was a thousand percent correct. But the way he said it, the words he chose, and the insistence on making it personal with the caller made all of his valid points suddenly immaterial.

All anyone will hear is the rant, the anger, and the perception that Dabo wants to be done at Clemson.

That may or may not be true, but Dabo Swinney should be honest with himself and those who support him. If he wants out, he should simply say so. He may not care about what Tyler from Spartanburg says, but Clemson fans do care about what Dabo Swinney says.