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Will Dabo Swinney leave Clemson for Alabama?

Ashleigh Snyder
Head coach Dabo Swinney smiles and talks with ESPN after winning the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, on Dec. 29, 2023.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban pictured at the 2019 National Championship game, which saw the Tigers defeat the Tide 44-16.

Editor’s note: Following the publishing of this story, Oregon head coach Dan Lanning announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he is staying in Oregon and not leaving to take the Alabama head coaching position. The Tiger has since edited this story to include Lanning’s announcement.

The sports world took a dramatic turn on Wednesday when Alabama head coach Nick Saban announced his retirement, throwing a wrench into the future of the college football coaching landscape. His departure immediately prompted speculation on whether Dabo Swinney could leave Clemson to return to his alma mater to take over Saban’s vacancy.

Swinney, who played football at Alabama from 1990 to 1992 and coached with the Tide from 1993 to 2000, had the second-highest odds to be Alabama’s next head coach behind Oregon head coach Dan Lanning, as of Wednesday evening, according to SportsBetting. Lanning, however, announced Thursday morning that he is staying in Oregon and will not be leaving for Alabama.

While Swinney has been at Clemson since 2003 and just finished his 15th full season as the Tigers’ head coach, the Alabama job is one of if not the best, in the country and hasn’t been available since Saban took over the program in 2007.

Swinney’s contract with Clemson, which runs through 2031, has an “Alabama Clause” that would force Swinney to pay Clemson $7.5 million if he took the Alabama job this year. If Swinney left for any other coaching job, his buyout would only be $5 million.

In 2017, after he led Clemson to its first national championship since 1981, Swinney was asked about potentially leaving Clemson for the Alabama job on Herbstreit and Fitzsimmons podcast and had nothing but good things to say about the position.

“I’m humbled by that and certainly appreciate that anybody would even think that way, that they would want me to be a candidate for a job like Alabama,” Swinney said. “I’ve always said, ‘you never say never,’ because you have no idea what the dynamics are going to be. Ten years from now, Alabama may call me and want me to come to Alabama, and the Clemson people may hate me at that point. I don’t know.”

“I always smile,” Swinney added. “I understand it. That’s kind of the world we live in. I live in the here and now. I stay focused on where I am. I’m incredibly happy here at Clemson. I love where I am. This is my 16th year at Clemson. It’s not like I haven’t dug my roots in here.”

Clemson University President Jim Clements was at the South Carolina State House in Columbia on Thursday and briefly spoke with The State about the open position at Alabama. Clements was asked if he was worried about Swinney leaving for Alabama and did not give any definitive answer.

“Love Dabo Swinney,” Clements said. “Dabo has done a great job. Look, Dabo loves Clemson. Clemson loves Dabo. Dabo is our guy. Dabo’s done a great job. He’s a phenomenal leader, built an incredible program with great culture, delivered national championships. Dabo is our guy.”

According to another report from 247Sports, when Saban met with the Alabama team on Wednesday, players were told that Alabama would have a new head coach within 72 hours.

That said, ​​Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said in a statement Wednesday not to believe any rumors before an official announcement.

“As with any coaching search, our goal is to be thorough, but expedient,” Byrne said. “Our ideal candidate will be strong in recruiting and relationship building, player development, excel in Xs and Os and have the overall ability to lead this historic program. There will be plenty of rumors out there during this process. Next time I talk publicly will be to announce our new coach. If you don’t hear it from me, don’t believe it. Roll Tide!”

A handful of Alabama fans seemed to have no interest in having Swinney as their next head coach, as some publicly gathered in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium Wednesday night chanting “Anyone but Dabo.”

Only time will tell who the next leader of Alabama football will be, but whoever it is, he will have large shoes to fill. Saban finished his coaching career with seven national championships, six of which came at Alabama, and a 206-29 record as the leader of the Tide.

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About the Contributors
Justin Robertson
Justin Robertson, Associate Editor
Ashleigh Snyder
Ashleigh Snyder, Photo Editor
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