We learned Wednesday evening that Alabama head coach Nick Saban would be stepping down from his position. It has long been speculated that Clemson Football head coach Dabo Swinney would be the next guy in Tuscaloosa because of his success in recent years and his status as an Alabama alum.
It wasn’t long after the initial posts about Saban’s retirement that Dan Lanning emerged as the early leader for the Crimson Tide head coaching job.
As discussed last night, Lanning makes sense as a candidate based strictly on his merits. He is young, he has had early success at Oregon, and he has ties to both Alabama and former defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Swinney was mentioned as a candidate by ESPN's Pete Thamel and others, along with Kalen Deboer, Lane Kiffin, James Franklin, Mike Norvell and Marcus Freeman.
Swinney, however, was the subject of at least one gathering on Alabama's campus Wednesday evening, and it wasn't a supportive gathering.
On the surface, when you need to hire a head coach, and there is a candidate who is only 54 (eighteen years younger than Saban), has over a decade of experience as the head coach of a power program, has won two national titles, eight conference championships and is an alumnus of your institution, that person would make a home run hire.
Yet not only is that institution reportedly focusing on other candidates, but there are protests on their campus pre-emptively campaigning against that alumnus.
It would be easy to dismiss this as jealousy or rivalry-fueled hate, but I think there is more to this, and the timing of all this is a bit surprising.
I had heard the chirps early yesterday that Saban might retire, but I didn't put any more weight into them than I have when the chirping started since 2017. I assure you it was a coincidence that I wrote yesterday about perceptions about Swinney outside the Clemson fanbase.
Nationally, Swinney won't find respect for his philosophies regarding NIL and the portal until he proves that he can put Clemson back on a positive trajectory. I think it is very fair to believe that fans outside Tiger Nation believe the same thing.
While Clemson fans have faith that Swinney can take the Tigers back to the top of the mountain, I think these Alabama fans chanting 'Anyone but Dabo!' reflect the general opinion that a coach who won't fully embrace NIL and the portal isn't considered a great candidate to take over a premier program in 2024, even if it is his alma mater.