The point of David Hale’s ESPN article was about Dabo Swinney‘s potential future at Alabama, or lack thereof. The Clemson head coach is a natural replacement for Nick Saban one day, given that he’s beaten Saban two out of the last three times they’ve played, and that he’s an Alabama native, an Alabama graduate, a former Crimson Tide wide receiver and a former Crimson Tide assistant coach under two separate regimes.
Swinney has towed that thin line splendidly of late, repeatedly stating that, while he loves his alma mater, Swinney’s happy at Clemson and has no plans to leave. Still, the future remains unwritten and who knows how he’ll feel in 2025? Again, he’s done a remarkable job of showing affection to his alma mater and loyalty to his employer at the same time.
It was all going great, until he said something truly ridiculous:
“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.”
Here’s a piece of news for Swinney: College athletics already is a professional enterprise for everyone involved, everyone except the people actually doing the athletics.
Dabo knows this, he works in college athletics every day. In fact, Clemson will pay him $93 million to remain in college athletics for the next 10 years. Assuming he finishes out the life of the deal, Swinney will make well over $100 million over his professional career in college athletics.
The point of this piece is not to shame Swinney for his earnings — although it is incredibly bad optics for a guy making darn near eight figures a year to resent players earning a larger piece of the pie, particularly in a time where Congress is sniffing around the NCAA’s amateurism model. College athletics is a business, and at its highest levels it’s incredibly big business. Clemson is making exponentially more money off its football program than it did 30 years ago, and Dabo deserves a piece of that pie. But the players’ piece hasn’t grown at the same rate over the past 10, 20, 50 years. Not unless you want to count staff nutritionists (and their respective salaries) and some free rounds of putt-putt as compensation.
If we’re to read into the subtext of what Dabo’s saying here, it’s that the only reason he coaches college football is because the players don’t get paid. Turning boys into men? Shaping the next generation of young leaders? Helping form young men’s character in a critical portion of their lives? No, Swinney’s in it because his players don’t get paid.
Perhaps that’s an unfair reading into Swinney’s comments, but then again maybe it’s not. After all, he just told us how he really feels above.