In an ironic twist, a prestigious coaching award named in honor of an Alabama coaching legend has been claimed by a Clemson man with both ties to Tuscaloosa and a recent loss to the Tide on his résumé.
A couple of days after his Tigers fell to the Tide in the College Football Playoff championship game, Dabo Swinney has been named as the 49th Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year. Swinney was one of seven finalists for this year’s award. Another of those seven? Nick Saban, whose Tide beat Swinney’s Tigers to claim his fifth career national championship, one behind the FBS’ all-time leader, Paul “Bear” Bryant.
The other five finalists were North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Houston’s Tom Herman, Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo and Stanford’s David Shaw.
Entering the title game, Swinney’s Tigers’s had won a school-record 17 straight games, including the first 14 to start the 2015 season. While Clemson failed Monday night to claim its first national championship since 1981, the 14 wins is a school record, breaking the record of 12 held by that last title team.
This is also the fifth straight season under Swinney the Tigers have won at least 10 games in a season. The Tigers have also won a pair of ACC titles (2011, 2015) since Swinney’s first full season in 2009; prior to Swinney’s arrival, the last conference title for the school was 1991.
The Bryant is the seventh national coach of the year honor claimed by Swinney, with the previous six being awarded by the Associated Press, the Walter Camp Foundation, ESPN, The Sporting News, the Maxwell Club of Philadelphia and the American Football Coaches Association.