Relationships Are the Key to Swinney's Success

Zach Lentz

CLEMSON — How Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney turned the Tigers into a perineal national title contender may seem like a mix of motivating players, coming up with catchy phrases for his team, and media alike, combined with a bit of good fortune and top-notch recruiting.

But in reality, it has been a long process that returned the Tigers to the glory of the 80s that the elder-fans spoke of so fondly.

“It's been very intentional, purposeful and a lot of really great people,” Swinney said. “Great players that have bought into who we are, what we do, how we do it. Really believe in that. Great coaches, great staff, great chemistry where we're all on the same page. We've really focused on the culture of our program. The last eight years, we're the second winningest program in college football, but also over those last eight years, seven of those eight years, we've been top-10 academically.”

The mix of first-rate academic, facilities and recruits has been something that Swinney has defended from the first day that he took the job as an interim head coach before the Georgia Tech game in 2008, and it is something that he has continued to defend now with two national titles and five CFP appearances under his belt.

“I think that just speaks to the type of people involved in our program and our culture that drives everything here,” Swinney said. “That's a simple answer to a question, but that's

Ultimately what it comes down to is just accountability, leadership, who's coming in the door type of development that we have here and just the philosophy of our program."

What makes Swinney different from the majority of the other elite coaches is simple: the relationships.

For Swinney, he never had the responsibility of being a coordinator prior to taking over as the interim head coach — he was always just a position coach, responsible for his group of 10-15 wide receivers.

It was in that room that taught Swinney the importance of relationships with the young men he was entrusted to coach, and it is that same mentality that he now carries into his team meetings and staff meetings.

"I don't coach the team any different from I coached my position. I really don’t,” Swinney said. “I had a segment of about 15 guys for years and years and years and now I have a segment of 120. I don't coach the team any different from I ran my room and how I dealt with my players. It's just more opportunity for me.

“So, I always focused on the relationships in my room, the culture of my room, the accountability of my room, who they were as people, academics, you name it — now I just do those same things with the team now, and with the staff. I coach the staff the same way — I don't do anything any different.”

For Swinney, the secret sauce for the Clemson Tigers has been one word: love. A love for his players, a love for his staff, a love for what he does and a love in seeing his players succeed in all that they do.

“But absolutely, I have great relationships with these players and that's the best part of my job is the interaction with these guys. I love them,” Swinney said. “I love what I do, and I'm passionate about helping them be successful and figuring life out, helping them be prepared for what comes after Clemson."