Clemson coach Swinney displays, embraces walk-on coach mentality
Swinney's deal guarantees him $800,000 in this first year, about $200,000 more than the Tigers will pay in a buyout installment to
But if Swinney, a former Alabama walk-on receiver, wins the ACC Atlantic Division, his pay will rise to equal the median salary of the other 11 ACC coaches. If he wins the ACC title, his pay will rise to match the average of the league's seven highest paid coaches. The discrepancy in guaranteed dollars doesn't seem to bother Swinney, though. "I was a walk-on football player," he said. "I'm kind of a walk-on coach. If I do a good job, I'll get rewarded."
What a novel concept. Offer a coach a (relatively) reasonable salary and give him an incentive to excel. Even better, Phillips didn't have to ram the contract down Swinney's throat, because Swinney probably would have coached for free as long as Clemson gave him the money to hire a quality staff.
That's why Swinney, 39, probably will remain a head coach for a long time. He has a plan. On the day Clemson forced Bowden out and Phillips tapped a stunned Swinney to serve as interim coach, Swinney laid out several changes he'd like to make, from instilling a new offensive philosophy to adding a "Tiger Walk" through the parking lot to the hill at Tiger Stadium on game day. Swinney, who had never even served as a coordinator, clearly had drawn a blueprint for how he would run his own program.
Hiring a staff that would allow Swinney to succeed was paramount in that plan. "I think he's done a nice job of putting it together," Phillips said. "It's one of those things where you can take more guaranteed up front, but if you don't have the staff and support around you, that's going to be a short life."
And so Swinney started with the support. Not long after Phillips removed the interim tag, Swinney hired former Mississippi State offensive coordinator
Under Swinney, McCorvey will fill a role similar to the one
Swinney also raided the staff at his alma mater, brining in Dillon, S.C., native
Later, Swinney hired
The defensive staff Swinney has carefully assembled will face the ultimate test early this season. Five days after the Tigers open against Middle Tennessee State, they'll travel to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech and coach
But if Swinney, who went 4-3 as Clemson's interim coach, and his staff can harness the talent in the program, they can compete for Clemson's first conference title since 1991. In terms of resources, fan support and facilities, Clemson is an SEC program trapped in the ACC. The Tigers have recruited well enough to be an elite team in either conference, but, for whatever reason, that hasn't translated on the field. Swinney will have to change that.
If he does, he won't be the lowest paid coach in the ACC for long. "As he becomes successful," Phillips said, "the other part takes care of itself."