Swinney right choice as Tigers’ coach

Published 7:30 pm Tuesday, December 2, 2008

For the past five weeks, Pelham native Dabo Swinney has been interviewing publicly for the job of head football coach at Clemson University. That interview came to a close Saturday with a water-bucket soaking after Clemson’s 31-14 win over South Carolina and a formal interview Sunday.

Monday afternoon, Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips removed the word interim from Swinney’s title and helped him into the orange blazer as the football program’s 25th head coach.

“He’s one of the bright young coaches in America. He took over a very difficult situation for the last six games and showed me what type of a coach and leader he is,” Phillips said in a released statement.

Swinney took over the Tigers’ program after Tommy Bowden resigned Oct. 13 and lost his first game, 21-17, at home to Georgia Tech after a partial week as head coach. His first full week as head coach paid off, as Clemson, then 3-4, marched into Chestnut Hill, Mass., and knocked off Boston College, 27-21.

Following that game, an Associated Press photo captured Swinney with a huge smile on his face, running on to the field as ice and water fell from his drenched gray sweatshirt. Former Spain Park wide receiver Tyler Grisham, who has been one of Swinney’s main players as receivers coach, was giving him a shove onto the field.

From that moment on, Swinney proved he was the man for the job. Not only did he finish the regular season with a 4-2 record, but he led the Tigers back to a fun-loving attitude during a season that began with an embarrassing loss on national television to the University of Alabama and grew worse with a mid-season departure by their head coach.

He embodies an enthusiasm that his players seem to grab hold of — and that goes back to his days as a player and coach at the University of Alabama.

There was little doubt in my mind Oct. 13 that Swinney, one of the nation’s top recruiters, would become the next head coach, and its clear his players never doubted it either.