Clemson Football: Dabo Island is a Lonely Place in 2023

Clemson's Dabo Swinney talks with reporter after practice at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida.
Clemson's Dabo Swinney talks with reporter after practice at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida. /

You may think it’s easier to write about Clemson Football after a win over Notre Dame and in some ways you’d be correct.

But for me, it was a muted joy on Saturday after a week of watching Clemson fans tear their coach and fellow fans apart on Social Media and probably in their front yards.

It’s been something to watch, read and digest.  I try not to tell anyone how to be a fan and I’m happy I stayed out of the morass.

It’s true that living in Texas mutes some of the second-by-second frustrations that I may feel if I lived in Pickens County or God forbid, Columbia, but take my word for it, those frustrations exist.

On the flip side, living in the Austin area allowed me the opportunity to watch a university with seemingly everything in its favor win a National Championship after a decades-long drought.

That team then went on a long streak of 10-win seasons, but eventually that wasn’t enough and was followed by fans beginning to eat their own as they demanded more and more and more, finally driving the National Championship-winning coach out for the next best thing.

This ultimately led to their once proud program cycling through coaches for the better part of two decades trying to get back to where they were when they first started thinking things were terrible.

I see a lot of the same in Clemson fans in 2023.

Some fans see it as a simple A or B choice.  You’re either happy with 5-4 or Clemson needs to hit the transfer portal and find someone to buy players (legally, of course).

For me, it’s not that simple. No, I’m not happy with 5-4, but I’m not unhappy enough to want to potentially destroy what has been built both on and off the field.

There is an in-between.

I loved every minute of winning two National Championships in three seasons, but I took more pride in how it was done and the fact that the way it was done made Clemson different than say, Georgia or Alabama.

Football fans often talk about a team’s identity on the field, but Dabo Swinney gave this entire program an identity.

One that set it apart from others.

There’s a reason so many college football coaches follow many of Dabo’s principles in building their own programs.

Right about now is when some of you are saying, “Sure, but college football has changed since then.”  I agree with you.

But has it changed for the better?

You could be right that Clemson won’t win another National Championship with the current transfer rules and NIL shenanigans. I wouldn’t disagree with you.

A lot of folks have misconstrued “Best is the standard”, to mean “Win every game no matter the cost and go after everyone in the portal no matter what and if you don’t you aren’t trying”.

It’s human nature to never be satisfied.  There was a time when Clemson fans would be happy with an ACC Championship.  Then they would be happy if they made the playoff.

Next, it was, if we could just win a playoff game. If we could just play for a National Championship. If we could just win a National Championship. It would be really cool if we won two.

Now? None of that is enough for some.

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney and his staff are not immune to criticism

Dabo doesn’t take criticism very well and berating fans is not a good look.  Neither is putting pressure on the players in preseason, which was so out of character I was left dumbfounded.

I have questioned the coaching staff as recently as Saturday, even in the win.  I think a large portion of the criticism I’ve seen in this area is warranted.

I’m not opposed to transfers.  The basketball team has multiple and the baseball team has some, too.  I cheer for them just the same as if they’d picked Clemson out of high school.

I also believe the thought that Clemson would be a playoff team if they had another offensive lineman or two a stretch to say the least.

But I keep going back to the fact that the man leading the football program has a belief in developing players and young men that has been an unqualified success at the highest level both on and off the field.

The players aren’t failing out of school. There’s no scandal, few major problems and almost uniformly players praise Swinney and their time at Clemson.

Yet when adversity comes many want to throw the identity that took so long to build away for (maybe) a few more wins, a better bowl game and maybe a playoff berth.

Social Media is a weird thing.  Sometimes it seems like “everyone” is on one side, when in reality it’s usually a very small minority that’s driving the angst.  You know, “the squeaky wheel” theory.

I know I’m not the only Clemson fan that feels this way, right?  It just feels that way sometimes, like I’m on an island and I’m the only who cares about the bigger picture.

This is especially a thing when your phone is in your hand and your X account is open.

Thankfully, I’ve figured out how to solve that.

dark. Next. Clemson Football: Performance vs Performer