Q: There is 20 years worth of pent-up frustration behind the Tigers’ start, and fan venom is predictably spread among school president Jim Barker (neglecting athletics in promotion of academic stature), athletics director Terry Don Phillips (all fall teams have a sub.-500 record) and coach Dabo Swinney (cyclical outcomes to his predecessor and former boss, Tommy Bowden). Given your Clemson history, what’s your take as you watch this situation from afar?
As a disclaimer, I’ll admit that I’m not nearly as well sourced on what’s going on at Clemson as I was seven years ago. But from more of an outsider’s point of view now, I do have some ideas.
The idea that Barker is neglecting athletics seems ridiculous to me. The palatial west end zone project stands as a constant reminder of the commitment that Barker and Clemson have for athletics.
I know that particularly with the problems the Tigers have had at wide receiver, Clemson fans look at North Carolina’s Dwight Jones and ask how it is that he allegedly was able to get admitted to North Carolina and not Clemson. But as I’m covering the NCAA investigation of North Carolina that includes possible academic misconduct, it strikes me that Clemson wouldn’t want to be exactly like North Carolina in that department right now.
Regarding Terry Don Phillips, I would say ultimately he should be judged by the quality of his head coaching hires in football and men’s basketball. I’ll admit, I wasn’t blown away by either of the hires.
Dabo Swinney was not experienced enough to take over a program as big as Clemson’s. Brad Brownell has never been in charge of recruiting at the ACC level. Having said that, I was impressed with how Swinney led the 2009 team to the ACC championship game, and I’ve heard Brownell is an excellent X’s and O’s coach.
As for Swinney, his immaturity is obvious every time I watch Clemson play. Auburn was sleepwalking through the season opener until Swinney celebrated like the Tigers had just won the Super Bowl after Jamie Harper’s admittedly magnificent touchdown catch late in the second quarter.
You don’t show up an SEC team on its home field like that with another half to play. Auburn was instantly motivated after that and looked like a different team for the rest of that game. I blame Swinney for that.
I also don’t understand how the former wide receivers coach doesn’t have any wide receivers on the team who are capable of making a big play. In the final analysis, I think Clemson got rid of a better coach (Tommy Bowden) than it hired in Dabo Swinney.