Pelham’s Swinney earns coaching award

Clemson head football coach and Pelham native Dabo Swinney was named the Bobby Dodd Award winner as the National Coach of the Year in college football Dec. 31. (File Photo)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

Clemson University head football coach Dabo Swinney, a Pelham native, has been named the winner of the Bobby Dodd Award as the Football Bowl Subdivision National Coach of the Year.

The announcement was made Dec. 31 during halftime on ESPN of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl game between Auburn and Virginia.

Swinney is the first Clemson football coach to win a National Coach of the Year honor since 1981 when Danny Ford was named National Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association and the Football Writers Association.

Ford coached Clemson to the National Championship during that 1981 season with a 12-0 record, including a 22-15 win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

Now Swinney will coach the Tigers in the Discover Orange Bowl on Wednesday night. It is Clemson’s first visit to the Orange Bowl since that game at the conclusion of the 1981 season.

“This is a great honor,” said Swinney. “I accept this award on behalf of our players, coaches and everyone affiliated with our program at Clemson. I am proud of what we have accomplished this year and we hope to add to that this week.”

Swinney said he is honored to follow in Dodd’s footsteps.

“It is an honor to win an award named after the legendary Bobby Dodd, who did so much for college football,” Swinney said. “I am humbled to be the recipient of this award.”

Swinney played on the Pelham High School football team before walking on at the University of Alabama, where he played as a wide receiver on the Tide’s 1992 national championship team.

After serving as a graduate assistant and later a wide receivers and tight ends coach at Alabama, Swinney was hired as the assistant coach and wide receivers coach at Clemson.

Swinney was then promoted to the Clemson head coach position in 2008 after the departure of former head coach Tommy Bowden.

Swinney is the first Clemson coach in any sport to win a national coach of the Year honor since Larry Penley was the unanimous National Coach of the Year of college golf in 2003 when the Tigers golfers won the National Championship.

This season Swinney has coached Clemson to its first ACC Championship in 20 years, its first 10-win season in 21 years, and its first bid to the Orange Bowl since 1981. The Tigers have a 10-3 record entering Wednesday’s Discover Orange Bowl game against West Virginia.

The Tigers have four wins over top 25 teams this year, a school record for one season and tied for second most in the nation this year. The Tigers could gain a fifth with a victory over the Mountaineers. Included in the list of wins over ranked teams are a pair of wins over Virginia Tech, a 23-3 victory in the regular season over a 10th ranked Virginia Tech team in Blacksburg, and a 38-10 win over the third ranked Hokies in the ACC Championship game on December 3. That victory tied for the highest ranked team Clemson has defeated in its history.

Clemson is ranked 14th in AP and 14th in USA Today entering the bowl season and had a No. 15 ranking in the final BCS poll, tying Clemson’s best final ranking in the BCS.

The Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award is annually presented to the Football Subdivision head coach whose team excels on the field, in the classroom and in the community.

The award is named for Bobby Dodd, the longtime head coach at Georgia Tech. It was established in 1976 to honor the values that Dodd exemplified. The Dodd selection committee is composed of college football media experts, and previous winners.