If nothing else, Dabo Swinney is extremely consistent with this bit of lingering and ongoing speculation.
Swinney is a native of Birmingham, Ala., and played wide receiver for Alabama in the early nineties. Given that connection, the school of thought is that, when Nick Saban decides to retire, the Crimson Tide’s first call will be to Swinney.
“You don’t ever say never,” the Clemson head coach said in November of 2015, a little over a year before the Tigers beat the Tide for the 2016 national championship, when asked about such a possibility. “You don’t ever know what the circumstances would be at any given time.”
Fast-forward to the here and now, and Swinney is singing from the same hymnal when it comes to talk of replacing Saban.
“I’ve always said you never say never because you never know what the dynamics will be,” the coach said Wednesday on the Kirk Herbstreit/Ian Fitzsimmons podcast.
In August of this year, the 47-year-old Swinney — he’ll be 48 in November — reached an agreement on a new seven-year, $54 million contract that leaves him signed through the 2024 season. Swinney would owe the university a $6 million buyout if he leaves anytime between now and Dec. 31, 2018. That number would then drop to $4 million if he leaves before Dec. 31, 2019, then drops by $1 million each year through the same date in 2022. It would then be $1 million for the final two seasons on the deal.
In May of this year, the 65-year-old Saban — he’ll be 66 in October — agreed to a contract extension that leaves him signed through the 2024 season. Saban will turn 73 years old during that 2024 season.
A little factoid that might interest some: Swinney would be 56 at the start of the 2025 season, the same age as Saban when he took over the Tide in 2007.
They [Clemson] may run me out of here, they’ve [schools] fired Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno and you name it, so I don’t think about it,” Swinney said. “I just love what I do, whether or not I retire here or not, I have a long way to go. You can retire a lot worse places than Clemson, SC; this place is special. I love it. Who knows what God’s got in store for me down the road. I just kinda take it one day at a time, one year at a time. Hopefully, we can be about the right things and the right way. Who knows what God has planned for me 10-15 years down the road will be.”
Herbstreit pressed him on the issue if he would one day coach at Alabama after Nick Saban hangs it up.
“We just beat them [Alabama] for the National Championship I think,” Swinney joked. “First of all…anybody that would suggest that or say that I am humbled by that and certainly appreciate anybody that would even think that way that they would want me be a candidate for a job like Alabama or whatever. But that’s just kinda the fandom. You know people just naturally make connections and think things like that and they never really consider all factors. I’ve always said you never say never because you never know what the dynamics will be. Ten years from now, Alabama may call me and want me to come to Alabama and Clemson people may hate me at that point. I may have a terrible president or AD. There are dynamics that change. I have always focused on being great at where I’m at and blooming where I’m planted. All I know is there is nothing we can’t do here at Clemson. I don’t have to go somewhere else to win at the highest level.