ATLANTA - Coaches participating in the Chick-fil-A Bowl usually gush over the event, praising everything from the activities made available to players to the first-class matchups the bowl arranges between the SEC and ACC.
Count Clemson coach Dabo Swinney among the true believers. In fact, he thinks it might as well be a Bowl Championship Series game.
“It’s every bit as good,” Swinney said on Friday. “Probably the only thing (different) is we don’t have our buses wrapped with our pictures on the side of them.
“I’ve been to other bowls, Sugar Bowls, Orange Bowls, Fiesta Bowls and Outback Bowls, Champs Bowl, Citrus Bowls - a bunch of bowls - and this is as good as any of them out there.”
The Chick-fil-A Bowl is trying to position itself to be part of the four-team playoff rotation that begins in 2014. Bowls that will comprise that tournament have yet to be determined but the showcase in Atlanta is right in the mix.
“We believe we can assemble a compelling bid and play a significant role in college football’s new postseason,” Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO Gary Stokan said. “As the future home of the new College Football Hall of Fame, Atlanta has it all … a world-class facility, a proven host city, transportation and lodging infrastructure, corporate support and a track record for successfully hosting major sports events that cannot be matched.”
The architect of LSU’s defense is coordinator John Chavis, who has helped shape the Bayou Bengals’ resistance into one of the best in the nation.
If things had worked out differently, he might be plying his trade at the Death Valley located in Pickens County, S.C.
Swinney joked about the situation on Friday.
“Yeah, he was actually coming to Clemson until (LSU coach Les Miles) stole him from me right at the last second – dirty dog,” Swinney said. “But really coach Chavis is a great coach and I’ve known him for a long time. He works very hard in recruiting and he does things the right way.
“There are a lot of good coaches out there, but he’s a good man who loves his players.”
NEVER GAVE IT A SECOND THOUGHT
Any time an Atlantic Coast Conference team meets a Southeastern Conference team on the gridiron there is talk of league pride - and the fact that in recent years the positive outcomes are heavily tilted in favor of the SEC.
However, Swinney and Miles insist that’s not an issue at all as their teams prep for Monday’s meeting in the Georgia Dome.
“We really don’t spend a lot of time talking about the conference or any of that other stuff,” Swinney said. “We’ve got one agenda and that’s to try to be the best Clemson we can possibly be and try to play our best football game. All the other stuff is just distractions.”
“I agree with coach Swinney,” he said. “It never crosses my mind what conference somebody is in that we’re playing. It’s all about the matchup and how we would prepare.”
Former Clemson director of athletics Terry Don Phillips will be one of five men inducted into the Chick-fil-A Bowl Hall of Fame on Monday. The other four are former Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer, former executive director Robert Dale Morgan, former Georgia lineman Matt Stinchcomb and corporate contributor Ron Allen.
During Phillips’ 10-year run at Clemson he oversaw the upgrade of athletic facilities of every sport, including the WestZone project at Memorial Stadium.
Clemson appeared in the Chick-fil-A Bowl twice during Phillips’ time as A.D.
KIDS WILL BE KIDS
Bowl week offers players plenty to do, and in a tradition-rich city such as Atlanta the options are almost limitless.
So what is LSU safety Eric Reid’s favorite part of Chick-fil-A Bowl week so far?
“We got to spend out first night at Dave and Busters and got unlimited game cards,” Reid said with a smile. “It was just fun getting to play all those games for free.”