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Dabo Swinney Engages In Heated Theological Debate With Sports Radio Caller

Head coach Dabo Swinney of Clemson Tigers takes the field during pregame against Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Memorial Stadium on September 9, 2023 in Clemson, South Carolina.
Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

The Clemson football program is going through a rough patch. After a string of success that included two national championships, six trips to the College Football Playoff, and so many ACC championships that fans started to get bored with simply winning the conference, the Tigers are experiencing their first truly bad season in a decade. After blowing their opener in embarrassing fashion, Clemson has scuffled to a 4-4 record that includes losses to division rivals Florida State and NC State, and to a Miami program that absolutely loves to blow games to middling teams.

But it's not just the on-field results that have Clemsonites questioning their youth-pastor-on-steroids coach, Dabo Swinney. There's plenty else to criticize, like the loss of superstar defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who currently has Oklahoma looking playoff-ready, and Swinney's hardline stance against the transfer portal and NIL. There's the shabby offensive play-calling, too. Clemson has never been a particularly inventive or modern offense, but they could get away with it by having talent on the field everywhere; that talent has started to dissipate, as has Clemson's ability to develop players. D.J. Uiagalelei was a much-heralded recruit who flamed out while at Clemson, but he's looked good since transferring to Oregon State last winter and has the Beavers sitting at 6-2. His replacement, Cade Klubnik, was supposed to return the Tigers to the playoff bracket, but that hasn't worked out so well.

All this is weighing on the program, and more specifically on Swinney. That became evident during his weekly sports radio segment on Monday, when he was challenged by a caller identified as Tyler from Spartanburg.

Tyler had a lot to say about the sorry state of Clemson football, calling out not only Swinney's nine-figure salary, but what he perceived to be Swinney's arrogance. "I'm curious if you've ever read Proverbs 16:18, which talks about pride coming before the fall," Tyler asked. "Something changed after 2018 ... there seems to be a lot of arrogance that came in." He even compared Swinney to Tommy Bowden!

It was more than Swinney could bear, and after listening to Tyler monologue for a few minutes, the coach dropped his usual "aw shucks" routine and unleashed a Heaven-sized wrath for all of Clemson listeners to hear. You know what they say: Don't get in the middle of a pastor and his millions. (They say that, right?)

Swinney went off on Tyler for essentially being an entitled little shit, and then listed his series of accomplishments (past tense). "I'm sure you've never made any bad decisions. I'm sure you've lived a perfect life," Swinney said. "I'm sure you've led a bunch of people. I'm sure you do your job in front of—so, to answer your question, I started as the lowest paid coach in this frickin' business. And I'm where I am because I've worked my ass off, every single day, and I ain't gonna let some smart-ass kid get on this phone and create this stuff." Swinney finished up by reminding everyone how many degrees he has, the fact that he's married, and that he has numerous children—as sure a sign as any that the person speaking is not mad.

On the one hand, sometimes you gotta talk your stuff. On the other, Tyler isn't necessarily wrong, and Swinney set himself up to shoulder this kind of blame after all those years of peacocking. If you choose to run your program with the arrogance and stubborn conservatism of a Christian profiteer, you're going to end up with guys like Tyler taking your inability to get the damn passing game figured out as an opportunity to call you up and educate you on the finer points of scripture.

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