CLEMSON — Dabo Swinney doesn’t have his head stuck in the sand.
Clemson’s fourth-year head coach believes the foundation to a successful program is built with talented assistants. That’s why Clemson is paying $4.2 million to its assistant coaching staff this season – the highest figure in America.
Swinney anticipates all staff on hand for bowl
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris makes $1.3 million annually as the nation’s highest-paid assistant, and defensive coordinator Brent Venables makes $800,000; together, they’re the highest-paid coordinator duo.
So it’s no surprise, given Clemson’s back-to-back 10-win seasons, that other programs would have interest in those assistants.
That’s what Swinney is dealing with this week. Morris has been connected to openings at N.C. State, Auburn and South Florida, and defensive backs coach/co-defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison is believed to have interest from Auburn and new coach Gus Malzahn.
It just goes with the territory, Swinney said Friday.
“That’s the business,” he said at a press conference for the Tigers’ New Year’s Eve Chick-fil-A Bowl date against LSU. “It’s not like that’s an isolated issue. This business, the month of December, January, sometimes into February, things present themselves from time to time. I don’t get caught up and comment on things that are just rumors. We’ve got a plan of preparation we’ll execute, and we’ve got a great staff. There’s always going to be things come up that you have to evaluate. That’s all there is to it. I don’t look at it as a distraction.”
When asked directly if Harbison had been contacted by Auburn, Swinney said he’s “not going to comment on any personnel issues,” which would also apply to Morris’ situation.
ESPN reported that Morris would interview with South Florida Friday, but he shot down the report. He was on campus Friday and will be at Clemson’s first bowl practice today before watching former Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen in Indianapolis Sunday.
“If I make a comment on personnel issue, it’s not going to be on a rumor. It’s going to be because there’s a transaction and a comment to be made about it,” Swinney said. “I don’t deal in rumors. I anticipate all of our staff being here. From time to time, if change happens, with the program we’ve built, we’ve put one in place that will respond appropriately and attract great coaches.”
Swinney said he welcomes his coaches having opportunities to advance, and added that sometimes coaching rumors that become public are only half of the story.
“When I was an assistant, I wanted to be head coach one day, and I had opportunities to visit with people from time to time,” he said. “Sometimes people know about it and it gets out, a lot of times people don’t know about it. We had a few coaches last year who were approached by different people that nobody knew about, and the year before. Sometimes that stuff stays confidential, sometimes it gets thrown out to the media. Most of the stuff you hear is what it is, rumor.”
In Swinney’s eyes, it’s better to have a staff that others want than the opposite.
“I love having a staff that wants to be the best. Guys having opportunities to further themselves, I have no problem with that at all,” he said. “You want to have a quality staff that is going to have opportunities to advance their career from time to time. When that happens, you go hire another quality coach and move forward.”
Clemson will hold the first of 10 bowl practices this morning. The Tigers have done some running and lifting this week, and junior quarterback Tajh Boyd says his teammates are ready to resume the grind.
“There were no guys complaining that they were ready for the season to be over,” he said. “It’s a one-game season now, with 20-some days to prepare. Christmas is coming up, and you don’t see too many guys getting ready to go home for Christmas. It’s an important game for the program, and we’re excited about playing (LSU).”
Swinney said he doesn’t look at beating LSU as “redemption” for Nov. 24’s 27-17 loss to South Carolina.
“We want to create positive energy and momentum,” he said. “We want to win this bowl game because it’s our last game. If we don’t win the game, we’ll pick up and go back to work but there’s a lot of time before you play again – a lot of excitement when you win. Players will be excited to go play, get the opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the country.”
Clemson’s new $10 million indoor practice facility is nearly complete, and Swinney said he expects his team to be in by Tuesday. The only thing needed is an official certificate of occupancy.
“We’re excited about that,” he said. “If there’s a nicer indoor facility out there, I have to see it. It’s spectacular. I can’t say thanks enough to our administration and IPTAY for what they’ve provided our student-athletes. It’s a game-changer.”