ACC title brings Dabo Swinney 3-year extension
By PETE IACOBELLI
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has agreed to stick around through 2017.
The school and Swinney announced Thursday they had come to terms on a three-year contract extension. It had been previously announced Swinney would earn more than $1.9 million plus incentives.
Swinney was grateful for Clemson's support.
"I am very appreciative of their confidence in the program and my staff," he said.
It's a confidence that's grown since Swinney was first named interim coach in the middle of the 2008 season when his boss, Tommy Bowden, left with the once-top-10 Tigers in freefall at 3-3. Swinney's biggest step forward came this season when he led Clemson to its first Atlantic Coast Conference title in 20 years and its first 10-win season since 1990.
Swinney won the Bobby Dodd Award as national coach of the year, something a Clemson coach hadn't done since Danny Ford in the national championship season of 1981.
Clemson University Board of Trustees chairman David Wilkins says the extension reaffirms the school's commitment to Swinney and his staff.
"We look forward to our football program winning many more ACC Championships under his direction," said Wilkins, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada.
Should Swinney remain to the end of the contract, it would leave him tied with Bowden as the school's third longest-serving coach. Only Frank Howard with 30 seasons, and Ford, with 11, have more years in charge.
Swinney's contract was extended a year through 2014 after the 2009 season when the Tigers earned their first ACC Atlantic Division crown and first trip to the league's championship game. The team took a big tumble in 2010, falling to 6-7 for the school's first losing season in 12 years and Swinney's coaching seat was as hot as anyone's heading into this past season.
The Tigers, though, became one of college football's surprise teams as they opened 8-0 and rose to No. 6 in the country behind a high-paced offense run by coordinator Chad Morris, triggered by quarterback Tajh Boyd and featuring All-American receiver Sammy Watkins. Despite losing three of their last four regular-season games, Clemson took the ACC championship with a 38-10 victory over Virginia Tech and its first appearance in a BCS game.
Not everything's been rosy for Swinney.
The Tigers were embarrassed in the Orange Bowl in a 70-33 loss to West Virginia, a defeat that led Swinney to replace defensive coordinator Kevin Steele with Brent Venables from Oklahoma.
Clemson has lost three straight games to rival South Carolina, a low that hadn't happened to the Tigers since 1968-70.
Clemson did what it could keep things in place for the Tigers. The school retained Morris as offensive coordinator with a salary of $1.3 million a year for six years. Venables was hired for $800,000 a year. In February, the school awarded $450,000 in raises to the rest of the Tigers staff - more than half of that coming from a contractual bonus Swinney earned and redirected toward staff raises.
Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips said Swinney had earned the long-term deal because of what the team has accomplished.
"I know we certainly have more hills to climb," Phillips said. "But with his passionate leadership and work ethic, I am confident we will get where we intend to be."
It hasn't been the easiest of offseasons for Swinney. Clemson's five-star tailback Mike Bellamy had to leave school because of academic issues last month. Watkins, Swinney's other five-star talent in the 2011 recruiting class, was arrested on drug charges and is expected to face discipline that could include sitting out the season opener with Auburn at the Georgia Dome next September.
Swinney has yet to announce Watkins' punishments.
But Swinney's confident this is just the beginning of a long, successful run.
"The administration has provided us with the resources to continue our pursuit to be the best in the ACC and compete for the national championship for years to come," he said.
Updated June 7, 2012