Sorry Dan, You Don't Know Dabo

Last week, Wolken used coaches salary as one of the reasons that coaches are tone-deaf to the plight of African American players. But Wolken could not have been more wrong.

In April 2019, USA Today writer Dan Wolken came out with a scathing rebuke of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney's new 10-year, $93 million contract in an opinion piece. 

In the piece, Wolken uses a quote from four years ago to state that Swinney cannot be taken seriously because of his comments.

Last week, Wolken used coaches salary as one of the reasons that coaches are tone-deaf to the plight of African American players.

The profession that sells leadership and toughness as if it were a TED Talk was largely silent on Friday.

The profession that relies on the talent of young African American men to keep millions of dollars flowing to lavish athletics budgets and bloated salaries took a pass on the national conversation around racism, police brutality and unequal treatment before the law.

And on Tuesday, he called out Swinney's, "portrait of his program as a fun-loving football utopia if that image was attained by glossing over a racially charged incident and discouraging college kids from a protest that might have meant something to them because it could hurt his image with white fans" after a report from former walk-on Kenyon Tuttle claimed that an assistant coach, Danny Pearman used the "n-word" toward a player.

'There’s little reason to believe that Tuttle, a walk-on whose father Perry Tuttle was hailed on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the “Orange Bowl Hero” after Clemson won the 1981 national championship, was driven by animus or agenda when he sent his Tweet on Tuesday," Wolken wrote. "It’s clear from a subsequent comment that he holds Swinney in high regard.

"But with the very real conversations happening around the country about systemic racism after George Floyd died with a police officer’s knee on his throat last week, Tuttle was not going to abide a phony one.

"And that’s clearly what he believed Swinney was doing Monday in a news conference when he called it “a disgusting act of evil” without saying anything of substance on the direct issue of systemic racism or police brutality toward black people."

But Wolken could not have been more wrong

The fact is that if anyone understands the hardships — not racism, as no one who is white and not a person. of color can ever understand the difficulty of being a person of color — it is Swinney.

Very few people in the world of college football coaching world can appreciate the value of what college football can provide more than Swinney, as he literally climbed up from nothing to where he is today.

“So (going to college) was a special journey, and for me, I ended up at Alabama, I had some opportunities," Swinney said. "I remember my basketball coach called me in his office. He's still mad at me to this day because Coach Kellogg, he thought I was a really good basketball player, and I think I was pretty good, too, but he wanted me to play college basketball. He felt like — he had some people that were interested, and he was like, are you going to do this or am I just wasting my time, and I'm like — I said, coach, you're wasting your time. I'm going to Alabama.

“Once I realized that I could go to Alabama, I didn't know that I could go to school. I thought I was going to have to go a JUCO route and either play baseball or play basketball or go to a smaller school and play football. I thought that was going to be the route I was going to have to go until one of my counselors told me that I would qualify for what was called a Pell Grant. I didn't know what a Pell Grant was, and I didn't know how to do student loans. I had no clue. I had no collegiate background in my family of how to do that type of stuff."

According to Wolken, Swinney should not be taken seriously in his comments regarding the paying of players. 

However, one can argue if anyone can speak to the idea of being a student athlete and understanding what they go through it is Swinney because he has worked hard to climb up from nothing and is now rewarded with a contract commensurate with his value.

The idea of paying players is not a new one, and while no one will argue the fact that the players help drive the revenue of the football program, one fact is left out of the discussion — while they do not receive compensation in the traditional sense, they are paid.

They are paid with dining opportunities not afforded to the normal student. They are paid with an education that leaves nearly every other student on campus with an amount of debt that many will never be able to repay. They also are afforded opportunities to travel, the P.A.W. Journey, clothing, shoes, bowl gifts, rings and a platform on which they can showcase their talents for the scouts and GM's — along with many other things that a normal student would love to have.

Sii the richest contract in college football history, let's not forget that he began 10 years ago with one of the smallest — a mere $900,000 to take over a storied program.

So instead of punishing Swinney for rising above the ashes of his childhood, can we not celebrate a free-market system that should show every player, man, woman and child what you can do with a little hard-work and faith.

"You know, as a kid growing up, that's what you want," Swinney said. "You dream about stuff like this, so to actually be able to live it, man, I'm just so thankful. I prayed that this morning. I'm just thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of it, and I don't take it for granted. I just have such a great appreciation for how hard it is, and for how hard it is for so many people to come together with a common purpose. It's just — it's indescribable.

“But it all starts with a belief, and for me, that belief started as a little kid in Pelham, Alabama, a belief in myself and a belief in a future and a hope in a future that was greater than my present circumstances. I always had that, and that's what's driven me my whole life.”