Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has had to claw his way up the ranks since taking over the Clemson coaching gig, but today he rests comfortably among the elites in college football. Swinney coached Clemson back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter against the previously unbeaten Alabama Crimson Tide to deliver Clemson’s first national championship since 1981.
Swinney has left no doubt he now belongs firmly in the conversation when discussing the top college football coaches in the country, although he was likely already there based off the last few years. Swinney is now the fifth active coach to own a national championship, joining his division rival Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and, of course, Alabama’s Nick Saban. As it just so happens, Swinney now owns head-to-head victories against the other four.
That’s a pretty remarkable feat, and has to be pretty rare. Saban has wins against Meyer, Swinney and Stoops, but has yet to face Fisher (that will be handled in the 2017 season opener in Atlanta). Meyer has wins against Saban and Stoops but is 0-2 against Swinney and has not faced Fisher. Stoops has wins against Saban but not against Swinney or Meyer and he has never faced Fisher. So yes, Swinney is currently sitting in exclusive company as the only head coach to own wins against all other active head coaches with a national title.
Swinney has been chipping away with a heavy hammer and chisel at how he has been perceived in recent years, but a national championship changes everything. Swinney has long since put behind the idea that Clemson could not win a big game, and now he has coached the Tigers to the biggest win possible. Getting to a championship game is no easy feat. Doing so two years in a row is even more difficult. Just to pull that off is remarkable in itself and speaks volumes about what Swinney is doing with the Clemson program. But to come from behind to win the national title in the fashion they did, against an Alabama defense that had shutdown opponents all season long, this had to be extra special for the Alabama graduate.
Welcome to college football’s elite Swinney. Make yourself comfortable, because you will be here for a while.