Dabo Swinney wants 8 games, but 'indifferent' to divisional issues

'When a young man comes to Clemson, it would be great for him to be able to play every team in the league at some point'

INDEPENDENT MAIL FILE PHOTO
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney walks the sideline during the Tigers’ spring game at Memorial Stadium in Clemson on April 12.

Photo by Mark Crammer

INDEPENDENT MAIL FILE PHOTO Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney walks the sideline during the Tigers’ spring game at Memorial Stadium in Clemson on April 12.

Dabo Swinney frequently points out that he doesn't make the schedule, he just coaches the team.

But that doesn't mean that Clemson's head coach doesn't have some druthers concerning the roadmap the Tigers follow to their end-of-season goals.

Swinney can't imagine a world in which Clemson and Florida State would skip a year in what has become a battle of the league's top heavyweights.

On the other hand, he might not object to giving up the Tigers' annual 'crossover' rivalry game with Georgia Tech if it meant a better balanced schedule and a chance to play every team in the conference on a regular basis.

Even though the easiest way to open up the overall ACC schedule would be to play nine conference games instead of eight, Swinney says that an expanded league schedule would mean diminished flexibility for Clemson, which is tied into its annual state rivalry game against South Carolina and will now also play Notre Dame once in each three-season cycle.

"I've been a proponent for keeping the eight teams," Swinney said during the ACC coaches' teleconference this week. "I like the flexibility that it gives us, especially selfishly for us here at Clemson, and the fact that Notre Dame is rolling in as a non conference opponent, as well.

"I like the flexibility that we have with that and being able to play Auburn three years in a row, we're playing Georgia two years in a row...and of course we play South Carolina every year. I think that's something that helps us as a league as we get into this playoff type of format."

Should the ACC adopt a nine-game schedule, Clemson would have just one open slot to work with during the seasons in which the Tigers play Notre Dame.

Swinney described himself as "indifferent" to the issues of division makeup, or of eliminating divisions altogether.

"I think that for us, there's no way we're not going to play Florida State," Swinney said. "I just think that Clemson and Florida State have to play each other. That to me is like Alabama Auburn playing each other or Alabama Tennessee. It's just something that I think should happen.

"Our cross rival has been Georgia Tech. I don't know if there's a restructuring that might satisfy all of that. But again, for me, I'm pretty indifferent on the division stuff."

Swinney said balancing the schedule to allow all conference teams to play each other more frequently is more important to him than the makeup of each division or having permanent crossover rivalries.

He cited the example of Clemson and Virginia, who played last season at Charlottesville. Under the current setup, the teams won't play again until 2020, when the Cavaliers visit Death Valley. Clemson and Virginia aren't scheduled to play again at Charlottesville until at least 2025.

"The bigger thing for me is if there was a way to have more flexibility as far as these guys being able to experience playing every team in this league at some point before their four years are up," Swinney said.

"The one thing that I really wish that was different is that when a young man comes to Clemson, it would be great for him to be able to play every team in the league at some point over his career.

"With the setup that we have right now, that's just not the case."

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Comments » 8

lhaselden writes:

3 rivals 5 others is 8 games.... the next year play 3 rival and the other 5 conference teams...
I am in favor of a nine game conference schedule and giving up the SCSt, Wofford, Citadel in FCS games..... I think the FCS games are a waste of time at the level Clemson is now playing at. I think it is going to hurt the rating at the end of the year with the 4 team playoff.

clemvol writes:

Play a 12 game all Division I opponents. I also agree with a 9 game conference schedule. Keep Georgia, south caroslima and add 1 more division I team. What in the world would be wrong with this picture?

SlappleDapple writes:

I was under the impression that Clemson was required by law to play (and pay) one of the in-state FCS teams. Maybe they could bring one of them in for a pre-season exhibition game. That wouldn't fill the Valley, but there would be enough football-starved fans to be able to pay them.

Given the relative weakness of the ACC, and the coming playoff structure, I think schools would be wise to drop FCS and most lower division FBS teams from their schedules to enhance SOS as much as possible. If they do that, then a 9-game schedule might work.

lhaselden writes:

in response to SlappleDapple:

I was under the impression that Clemson was required by law to play (and pay) one of the in-state FCS teams. Maybe they could bring one of them in for a pre-season exhibition game. That wouldn't fill the Valley, but there would be enough football-starved fans to be able to pay them.

Given the relative weakness of the ACC, and the coming playoff structure, I think schools would be wise to drop FCS and most lower division FBS teams from their schedules to enhance SOS as much as possible. If they do that, then a 9-game schedule might work.

Neither Clemson nor USC is required to play an in-state FCS team but legislators have requested if they are going to play an FCS team then play an in-state team.
At one time Clemson and USC were required by law to schedule each other... but that may have changed.

Xander5000 writes:

Its supposed to be good for the state and a good payday for the lower tier schools. I think one game at the earliest part of the season with a lower tier school will be enough.....just to fine tune our level of play and get all the in-game rust off. Sure as heck better not lose to any of them, but thats the importance of showing up and play like its the championship......because make no mistake about it, those lower tier programs are coming in dreaming to knock us off and to get paid(the schools that is). If they do knock us off then they just wanted it more.

TrevorT writes:

I agree with you Xander. I have no problem with an in-state creampuff game to open the season, but I am tired of having two per season. I hope all the changes that are coming will spell the end of that.

YabbaDaboDooDoo writes:

Dabo and Clemson don't have a valid argument. Clemson's schedule the past several years has consisted of 8 ACC games, South Carolina, 2 I-AA usually in-state teams, and a major conference opponent to start the season (Auburn or UGa). So what does adding a 9th game do to Clemson's schedule? If no other changes are made by the ACC then they're simply replacing an in-state I-AA team with another Coastal division opponent. They're basically replacing SC State with Duke or UVa. What's he scared of?

Dabo says he wants every Clemson player to be able to play against every ACC opponent during his time at Clemson. With a 9 game schedule he'll play 6 Atlantic Division games and GT every year. That leaves 6 teams and 2 games left. He can play every ACC team in any 3-year period. PROBLEM SOLVED. Except I'm betting Dabo won't give up 1 of his 2 annual cupcakes in order to do it. He can't complain about strength of schedule keeping him from a playoff in the future if he's turning down a 9th ACC game most likely against an inferior Coastal football program in favor of a 2nd Div I-AA game.

9 ACC games plus South Carolina leaves 2 games to schedule whoever. 1 can be ND, UGa, or Auburn and he still gets to keep his cupcake. Dabo said he likes flexibility but getting ND once every 3 years is a problem most schools wish they could have. In fact, that's why there isn't a conference out there that wouldn't welcome ND football with open arms.

So Dabo can spare me the flexibility argument. His perfect schedule would be 8 ACC games with FSU being annual and the rest being against a rotation of 7 ACC dwarves, South Carolina, an SEC opponent to kickoff the season, and 2 home games against Anderson College.

clemvol writes:

I agree that teams ( not just Clemson ) need to stop with the "practice games" on the schedule. Clemson needs to stop with sc state, south caroslima needs to stop with Wofford, Ohio St. needs to stop with Buffalo, Alabama needs to stop with Georgia Southern and so on. But if this practice is going to continue then any Division II team that is played don't count this in the Won/Lost column. Do not count the stats team wise or player wise. The only way these games would count would be against you if you happen to lose and you would drop in the polls. If a team wants double digit wins in a season then schedule all Division I teams. How in the world can ANY TEAM brag about double digit wins when you put "gimme games" on the schedule. Don't tell me about the small guys that have beaten the big boys, the percentages are just not there.

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