Dabo Swinney Can Catch...John Wooden?
Dabo Swinney has accomplished a tremendous amount of success in his Clemson head coaching career.
From two national titles to five consecutive ACC crowns to the same number of consecutive College Football Playoff appearances to turning the Tigers into one of the winningest programs in the last 20 years, it's landed Swinney in company with some famous names.
Many pundits consider him to be close or on the same level (maybe a few think even above) Alabama coach Nick Saban. One could even call Clemson's half-decade run a dynasty, or at least a mini version of one.
Swinney is far from finishing his already illustrious career, but one name he could join in the record books with another successful season is one of the greatest coaching names in the history of collegiate athletics.
According to longtime Clemson Sports Information Director and Clemson Tigers Network commentator Tim Bourret, a run to a sixth consecutive CFP would tie Swinney with John Wooden, the famed UCLA coach who won 10 men's basketball national championships in a 12-year period (including seven consecutive titles) and redefined the occupation along the way.
"If Clemson reaches the College Football Playoff this year, Dabo Swinney would join John Wooden (9, 1968-75) as the only college basketball or football coaches to take teams to 6 consecutive Final Fours," Bourret wrote on Twitter.
Monday, he joined The Press Box on 105.5. The Roar to discuss that stat and clarify his research.
"If you went back and looked at the AP college football polls going into the bowl game, even back to 1936, you wouldn't have anybody else (but Wooden)," Bourret said. "A lot of people say, 'Well, (Florida State coach) Bobby Bowden finished in the top-4 12 consecutive years or whatever,' but a lot of those years, Coach Bowden won his bowl game to jump below the top-4 into the top-4. So even Bobby Bowden would not have had a playoff team sixth consecutive years based on the AP poll going into the bowl games."
And while it's unknown if Swinney knows what he's on the verge of accomplishing, he does know who he's chasing. An avid fan of the game of hoops, Swinney mentioned the "Wizard of Westwood" and some other illustrious coaches during a January press conference before the national title game loss to LSU when he was asked the definition of a dynasty.
“For me personally, I think about (Alabama) Coach (Bear) Bryant. I grew up in Alabama, and what he did in the ’60s and the ’70s, winning numerous national championships, and there’s some debate, probably could have won some more," Swinney said. "Anyway, certainly Alabama, and then what Coach Saban has done, and I guess the definition is just doing something over and over and over with an unbelievable consistency. You think about John Wooden. I know that’s not football, but didn’t he win 10 championships in a row? I think about the Bulls. I don’t know about all the football dynasties. I don’t think there’s been many. It’s just so hard to win consistently for a long period of time. Bobby Bowden at Florida State, I think they had 14 10-plus win seasons in a row. I think Oklahoma probably had a run there. They were pretty unstoppable. That’s kind of what pops into my head.”
Currently, Swinney is tied with Saban and Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski at five consecutive Final Four appearances, but the Tigers enter the 2020 season at No. 1 or No. 2 in many preseason rankings.
Obviously, Clemson has to get there in December to reach the milestone. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne are back to anchor the offense while defensive coordinator Brent Venables has shown the ability to change personnel year-to-year and still produce one of the top defenses nationally.
The schedule lends itself to an undefeated regular season, and if the Tigers capture the ACC crown again, there's little reason to believe the CFP committee would keep Swinney from joining a list that only includes the great Wooden.