There’s a fairly well-known school of thought around college football circles that, when Nick Saban decides to hang up his coaching whistle for good — or head off to right his NFL wrongs, as the current rumor du jour goes — the first coach Alabama will target in finding a replacement is Dabo Swinney. And, for once, the dot-connecting would make absolute sense.
A native of Birmingham, Swinney was a wide receiver for ‘Bama in the early nineties. After his playing career ended, he embarked on a coaching career with the Tide, first as a grad assistant and then as wide receivers coach before leaving for Clemson in 2003 and, ultimately, the head coach of the Tigers.
Add in the fact that Swinney is a highly successful coach — 71-26 in seven-plus seasons — and Swinney would be a no-brainer as a candidate based on his current résumé and pedigree. In a profile on CBSSports.com, Swinney did little to stem the talk. In fact, in some people’s minds, he fanned the flames when asked about the possibility of returning to his school if the opportunity ever arose.
“You don’t ever say never. You don’t ever know what the circumstances would be at any given time,” Swinney was quoted as saying. “First of all, Alabama may never, ever call me and I would never have a problem with that. They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do. My deal is to be great where I’m at. I had opportunities to leave Alabama. I had opportunities to leave Clemson. But I’ve just never been that guy about the next job. I’m about the job I’ve got.”
That said, it’s so much of a no-brainer, in fact, that Swinney’s boss’ boss acknowledges what he considers to be the obvious.
“If I’m the president of Alabama and I have an opening, guess who I’m calling? Dabo,” Clemson president Jim Clements said in the same piece. “So it’s OK. … Dabo is building something special here. If I’m him and I’m looking at the path we’re on, I don’t need to go anywhere else, including Alabama.”
Saban is signed through 2022, so it could be a handful of years down the road before Swinney the opportunity would arise, let alone a decision being made. Still, it’s something to file away for future reference, just in case.