Dabo Swinney's Alabama roots pay off in a big way
If you don't think Alabama lives in Clemson's head, despite the mind-boggling events of Jan. 7, 2019, think again. The Tigers have removed all doubt by putting their biggest fear in writing.
Dabo Swinney's fat new contract, making him the highest-paid coach in college football by total volume at $93 million over 10 years, contains an Alabama clause.
To be precise, it's an "Alabama enhancement" that increases his standard buyout by 50 percent if his alma mater brings him home to Tuscaloosa between now and 2027.
Acknowledging the Alabama threat in writing is revealing, especially since Clemson has beaten the Crimson Tide in two of the last three national championship games, including January's four-touchdown beatdown. What makes the crimson clause cute is the piddling amount of the Alabama tax.
An extra $2 million in 2019 and 2020? An added $1.5 million in 2021 and 2022? An additional $1 million in 2023 through 2025? A mere $500k extra in 2026 and 2027?
Don't you IPTAY people take your football seriously?
Swinney's standard buyout starts at a ridiculously low, by market standards, $4 million this year and drops toward $1 million in 2026. His total buyout to leave Clemson for Alabama would range from a high of $6 million to a low of $1.5 million.
Does Clemson not know who it's dealing with here?
Which program reset the college football salary structure to lure Nick Saban away from the Miami Dolphins with an eight-year, $32-million deal that had people at the time reaching for their smelling salts?
Which program just spent in the neighborhood of $14 million, give or take a protein shake, to construct a 25,000-square-foot Sports and Nutrition Center staffed by five performance chefs and four dietitians?
Which program is going to pour north of $70 million into a remodeling project for its stadium's South end zone upper deck, which was last redone less than a decade ago?
If Alabama wants to bring Swinney home and he wants to come home, the Red Elephant Club can round up the necessary funds with one pass of the hat.
That truth aside, this entire subject is probably nothing more than an interesting offseason discussion. There's no indication that either Saban or Swinney is going anywhere anytime soon, especially since Saban has a new hip, a new staff and a new purpose to atone for what went wrong in January.
Given that Swinney's lifted his program to his alma mater's level, without the built-in historical advantages, two things seem as obvious after Clemson 44, Alabama 16 as they did before Alabama 45, Clemson 40. The moment Saban decides to retire to the lake, Alabama absolutely should ask Swinney to come home - and Swinney positively should say thanks but no thanks.
Insiders tend to believe that Swinney's too smart to succeed Saban and that Alabama's best chance to get Pelham's favorite son would be following the man who follows The Man. No one can say for sure what Dabo will do if that phone rings, but no contract is going to stand in the way if Mama calls and he feels led to answer that call.
As for that "Alabama enhancement," it's no deterrent. It's an acknowledgement of the distance that still exists between these recent rivals.
By splitting four straight playoff games and the last four national titles, Clemson appeared to join Alabama atop the college football world. By inserting one specific clause in one generous contract, the Tigers demonstrated that the Crimson Tide still stands alone.