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A World Without Dabo Swinney

In 2008, Dabo Swinney was given an opportunity to take over the Clemson Tigers football team. The rest is history, but what if he never got the chance. Who could have patrolled the Clemson sideline?

As an interim coach, Dabo Swinney proved himself to be the best fit for a Clemson team that was dealing with lowered expectations.

The Tigers dropped a Thursday night ACC contest to Wake Forest to fall to 3-3 on the year after entering the season ranked in the top 10. Tommy Bowden was on his way out, but instead of over-extending his stay, he allowed Swinney to audition for then AD Terry Don Phillips.

Swinney would close the regular season 4-2 including a 31-14 win over rival South Carolina. He would officially name head coach Dec. 1 prior to the Tigers Gator Bowl game against Nebraska.

Even after the season, there were some that felt Swinney was not the right pick for the Tigers. 

In his 11 seasons, Swinney has won 130 games, eight division titles, four ACC crowns and two national championships. 

It's hard to imagine Swinney would have been given such an opportunity had Bowden finished the season. Phillips would have likely gone after a more established coach such as Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster or Southern Cal assistant Steve Sarkisian. 


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Phillip's gamble on Swinney has paid off in a major way, but what if Swinney was never given a shot. Here is a list of possible coaches that could have patrolled the Clemson sideline:

Gene Chizik

A former graduate assistant with the Tigers (1988-89), Chizik was coming off a 2-10 season at Iowa State. Chizik was not a welcome sight when he took over at Auburn, but after just one season he had the Tigers playing and winning a national championship.

Brady Hoke

Hoke was the mid-major coach awaiting a chance at a Power Five school. In 2008, he led Ball State to a 12-1 record. He would go on to coach two seasons at San Diego State before taking over Michigan.

Tommy Tuberville

In 10 seasons at Auburn, Tuberville won 85 games including an undefeated season in 2004. This hire would have been tough to sell to Clemson fans due to the fact that Tuberville had a reputation for losing games he was expected to win.

Chip Kelly

Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti was promoted to athletic director allowing Kelly to take over the Ducks in 2009. Kelly was an offensive coach that helped revolutionize the spread option attack so many teams incorporate today. He led Oregon to a PAC-10 title in his first season.

Lane Kiffin

The Lane Train pulled into Knoxville at the end of 2008 after the retirement/resignation of Phillip Fulmer. The former Oakland Raiders head coach led the Vols to a winning record before bolting back for the West Coast and Southern Cal.