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‘We have no authority’: Swinney sounds off on college football decision-making

Toby Corriston
Head coach Dabo Swinney speaks at a press conference prior to Clemson football’s first 2024 spring practice on Wednesday, Feb. 28.

Dabo Swinney made waves before Clemson’s first day of spring practice on Wednesday, addressing the lack of coach involvement in critical decisions within college football.

Swinney minced no words, directly calling out decision-makers in the sport, stating, “They’re just not equipped to understand the consequences of the decisions they make.”

He continued his frustration about how coaches wield minimal power despite their expertise.

“I’ve got a Ph.D. in 18 to 23-year-olds, but I don’t get any say,” Swinney said.

The lack of coach involvement in crucial decisions is not new. Swinney’s recent comments echo discussions from five years ago when he and other coaches advocated for an extended early signing period at the American Football Coaches Association Convention, Swinney said.

When asked about changes to the early signing period, NIL and professionalism in college athletics, Swinney said he and the other coaches don’t have any influence on the decisions that matter.

“I got no say, and we really don’t. Coaches, we have very little input,” Swinney said. “We get to talk a lot. We solve all the problems, but we have no authority.”

Swinney compared the situation to visiting a dentist, where if there is a problem, you fix it.

“If you get a toothache and you go to the dentist, right? You open your mouth, and if he says, ‘Dang, you have a root canal, and you need it right now.’ What are you going to do? Drill baby. You are like, ‘Fix it.” Swinney said.

Even though Swinny believes nobody listens, he expressed disappointment at the low attendance of coaches’ meetings, attributing it to the ineffectiveness of the meetings. Of the 134 head coaches in Division I college football, less than half attended the most recent AFCA meeting, which Swinney described as “sad.” However, he understands the reluctance, acknowledging that it wastes time.

“I hate going to these meetings. I don’t even know why I come,” Swinney said. “Hardly anyone goes, maybe one SEC coach and two Big 10 coaches.”

In the decades Swinney has been immersed in the world of college football, he has seen time and time again the sport’s resistance to change.

“I have spent my lifetime as a part of this game, learning and watching. So, it just kind of is what it is. We can all, right now, all the adults can say, ‘This train is fixing to run off this bridge, and it is going to crash,’ and we don’t do anything about it.”

Other prominent coaches, such as former Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, have previously voiced their concerns about the decision-making processes in college football. Yet, Swinney has emerged as one of the most outspoken figures in the field.

“Sometimes, bad things have to happen before things get better,” Swinney said. “And, unfortunately, that’s probably where we are in college football right now.”

As college football has drastically evolved without the direct input of college coaches, Swinney has and will continue to speak his truth.

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Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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