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Dabo Swinney is one of college football’s most successful — and highest paid — football coaches. In recent years the Clemson head coach has faced public or media backlash for various comments and opinions on issues big and small.
Does the public put too much stock into what Swinney says? ACC analysts Roddy Jones, Eric Mac Lain and EJ Manuel are all former ACC players and gave their thoughts to The State on the matter.
NOTE: Some answers have been edited for clarity and length.
—— Dabo Swinney often makes headlines for things he says. When you hear the name ‘Dabo Swinney,’ what comes to mind? ——
Roddy Jones, ACC Network analyst and former Georgia Tech running back: “There’s a couple things to this. One, I think we sometimes put a little too much stock into what college football coaches say, particularly when it comes to social issues, especially our most high-profile coaches. We expect them to be as polished on things outside of college football as they are inside of college football, so there’s times where I don’t really care about what a college football coach has to say.
In terms of what he said most recently about the college football playoffs, he had comments on the NIL, all that stuff, Dabo Swinney grew up in an era of college football and he likes that era. That’s very natural. The resistance to change, because it is change, he has thrived in multiple eras of college football, has built a program in the BCS era. It became the College Football Playoff and has really excelled there, so I can see why he isn’t necessarily excited about change in that arena.
I think we blow some of these things up, but in a lot of areas, like if I were to come to other people’s jobs and say, ’Hey, look, I’m drastically changing the way that you’re evaluated and the way that things are going to work,’ there’s probably going to be some resistance. The only difference, is I don’t stick a microphone in your face every time I ask for a comment, so I think it’s very natural. I think it’s very human. I think his views are his views. They’re going to stand. It doesn’t change the way I think of him as a coach. I think he’s a great football coach whether I agree or disagree with his views. I kind of think it’s funny how excited we get about some of the things all these coaches say.”
Eric Mac Lain, ACC Network analyst and former Clemson offensive lineman: “First and foremost, he’s a man of great faith and a man that holds that in the highest regard. A man that loves his family and loves his players, at the end of the day. It’s funny how anything that he says, he could say that the sky is blue and people are going to make it a headline and say that he’s crazy for saying that. It just comes with the territory. When you are the best or the second-best college coach in all of college football, you’re going to get that with any and everything that you say, so it’s something that he knows. He knows it’s going to happen and he knows where he stands on things. It is unfortunate to see things misquoted or used in other people’s agendas, but there’s no question where his mind is, where his heart is.”
EJ Manuel, ACC Network analyst and former Florida State quarterback: “I think you’re talking about one of the most exciting head coaches in college football. The energy that he brings to a room. The times I’ve had to talk and sit with him and obviously playing against him as a competitor, but now that I’m on the media side, getting a chance to know him as a person and as a coach, not somebody I’m trying to go out and beat, it’s been a joy. I see why so many of these parents send their kids to go play for him. A man of faith, a man that’s similar to what I had in coach (Bobby) Bowden and coach (Jimbo) Fisher (at Florida State). A guy that’s going to help raise your son, not just take him there and just utilize him as a football player. I feel like he’s adding value to these guys’ lives. At the end of the day, that’s really all you can ask for as a college football player.”