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  • Writer's pictureKevin Scarbinsky

Still Dabo after all these years

It was 20 years ago today. OK, maybe not today exactly, but one day in February of 2003, Dabo Swinney's phone rang, and his life changed. For better and forever. Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden needed a new wide receivers coach and wanted to know if Swinney was interested.


Boy, howdy, was he. He'd been out of coaching for two seasons. Not two months earlier, as Alabama introduced Mike Price as its head coach, Swinney interviewed with him and landed a job back at his alma mater as tight ends coach. Or so he thought.


After Price coached Washington State in the Rose Bowl and returned to Tuscaloosa, he informed Swinney that, with Price's two sons on the staff, he needed an SEC veteran to tutor the tight ends. He had decided to go with Sparky Woods.


Never mind that Swinney, who'd spent 12 years as part of the Alabama program as player and coach, had more SEC experience than Woods. The job disappeared. His faith did not. Then Bowden called, Swinney went to visit and Clemson hired him. Three months later, Alabama fired Price.


Five years after that, midway through Swinney's sixth season coaching Clemson's wide receivers, the school fired Bowden. Swinney phoned his wife with that news and more.


"It gets worse," he told her. "I'm the interim."


The last 20 years couldn't have gone much better. ...


Read Kevin's full account of Dabo's trip home and why he should be Alabama's first call when Nick Saban retires. Only in The Lede.


Clemson coach Dabo Swinney makes a point during the 2023 Nike Coach of the Year Clinic in Birmingham.


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