Dabo Swinney’s new contract includes an unusual provision that would add as much as $2 million to his buyout should he leave to take a job at Alabama, but the Clemson coach told ESPN he doesn’t spend time pondering a future at his alma mater.
“People always like to say one plus one equals two, and it’s a simple thing,” Swinney said of the speculation he would be Nick Saban’s eventual replacement at Alabama. “I don’t pay any attention. I was at Alabama 13 years. I love Alabama and always will. That won’t change. But I’m going on my 17th year at Clemson, my 11th as head coach. I love where I am, love what I do.”
Swinney, who grew up in Pelham, Alabama, played for the Crimson Tide as a walk-on wide receiver and later worked as an assistant under Gene Stallings and Mike DuBose. He has toppled his alma mater in the College Football Playoff national championship game in two of the past three seasons, and was rewarded for that success this month with a 10-year, $93-million contract that makes him the highest paid coach in college football, edging Saban’s average annual value by about $750,000.
Included in the new contract, however, is a clause that would add to any buyout should Swinney opt to leave for Alabama. His standard buyout is $4 million through 2020, $3 million from 2021-22, $2 million from 2023-25 and $1 million beyond that. He’d owe an extra $2 million should he depart for Alabama before 2020, $1.5 before 2022, $1 million before 2025 and $500,000 before the end of the deal.
The clause ramped up speculation that Clemson’s administration was also worried Swinney would return to his roots, but Swinney said it’s more about the overall dollar value, and that few schools aside from Alabama would likely match the money.
“It’s something [the school] presented with the offer, and I didn’t have a problem with it,” Swinney said. “They said, ‘OK, here’s your market,’ and that’s what they looked at when doing the contract.”
Swinney said the new deal was a “mutual commitment” meant to “send a message” that he’s at Clemson for the long haul, and he said he won’t spend any time thinking about a possible reunion with Alabama.
Still, Swinney said, there’s always a possibility that the dynamics change, and he won’t suggest he’ll never return to his home state to coach the Tide.
“Who knows what’s going to happen down the road? I have no idea,” Swinney said. “I just try to be great where my feet are. That’s my focus every day. Who knows? They may do away with college football in three years. There may be no college football. They may want to professionalize college athletics. Well, then, maybe I’ll go to the pros. If I’m going to coach pro football, I might as well do that. I may get a terrible president or a terrible AD one day. I don’t know. I have no idea what’s down the road. But I know what we have at Clemson is special, and I wanted to make a commitment to the university. That’s what the message of the contract was.”