Dabo Swinney Bio in PDF Format (updated 1/16/13)
At 43, Dabo Swinney is one of the youngest head coaches in the ACC and the country. However, his résumé is already stuffed with many significant accomplishments on a school, ACC, and national level.
First, his mere appointment to the position was significant. In October of 2008, he was named Clemson interim head coach, replacing Tommy Bowden, who had been his position coach as a player at Alabama and was Clemson's head coach since 1999. He led the Tigers to a 4-2 record over the remainder of the 2008 regular season, including a victory over Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks in the regular-season finale. That strong finish led to a Gator Bowl bid against Nebraska.
On December 1, 2008, the interim tag was removed from the title and he was named the program's head coach. At the time, there had been 28 interim head coaches at the FBS level since 1970 and those coaches had combined for a record of 26-86-2. Only one of those 28 interim coaches posted a winning record, and that was Swinney. When he was hired as the head coach, Swinney became just the second interim coach to be elevated to the head coach position at the same school during that time period.
In five years (four full seasons) as the Tigers' head coach, Swinney has directed Clemson to a 40-21 overall record (.656) and a 26-11 record (.703) in ACC regular-season games. He has also led the Tigers to the ACC Championship game twice, won one ACC Championship, won or shared three ACC Atlantic Division titles, and has been named national coach-of-the-year.
In addition to leading the program to five bowl games on the field in his young career, his players have also excelled in the classroom. In his career as a head coach, his players have an APR score of 991, fifth-highest among active FBS coaches.
The 2012 season has been a groundbreaking year for Swinney's Tigers when you look at the overall consistency of the program. With an 11-2 overall record, including a 7-1 mark in the ACC, Clemson put back-to-back 10-win seasons together for the first time since a four-year streak from 1987-90.
The seven conference wins in the regular season set a school record. Clemson was co-champion of the ACC Atlantic Division and has won or shared the division crown three of the last four years. The school record for consecutive home wins (13) was also established, as was the record for consecutive wins by at least two touchdowns (7).
With Clemson's thrilling 25-24 win over #7 Louisiana State in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Tigers finished the season ranked #9 in the USA Today poll. It was Clemson's first top-10 finish in one of the two major polls since 1990. Clemson also reached the 11-win mark for the first time since its 1981 National Championship season and for only the fourth time in school history.
The Tigers were also #14 in the final BCS standings. It was the second straight year Clemson finished in the top 15 of the BCS standings, one of only eight schools who can make that claim each of the last two years.
The 2012 campaign featured a record-setting offense. Clemson had six of the 11 offensive players on the All-ACC first team chosen by media and over 80 school team and individual records.
Leading the way was ACC Player of the Year Tajh Boyd, who has been the starting quarterback in all 21 Clemson wins over the last two years. He joined starting center Dalton Freeman as first-team All-Americans according to AFCA, just the third time since 1945 that the AFCA first-team All-America quarterback and center were from the same school.
Boyd's favorite wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, had 18 receiving touchdowns, second-most in the nation, and was as a second-team All-American. He was a big reason Clemson scored a school-record 533 points.
For the third time in his first four full seasons as head coach at Clemson, Swinney was a finalist for the 2012 Liberty Mutual National Coach-of-the-Year. He was also one of 16 semifinalists for the 2012 national coach-of-the-year by the Maxwell Football Club of Pennsylvania and was the only ACC coach on the list.
Swinney's 2011 squad, which ended the season ranked #22 in the nation, captured Clemson's first ACC title since 1991 when it defeated #3 Virginia Tech 38-10 in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte, NC. It tied for the highest-ranked team the Tigers have defeated in history and was the most points scored by an ACC team against Virginia Tech since it joined the league in 2004. The victory, the Tigers' second over the Hokies in 2011, gave Clemson its first 10-win season since 1990. The Tigers' four wins over top-25 ranked teams established a school record as well.
The Tigers jumped out to an 8-0 record and a #6 national ranking after being unranked in the preseason. Games 3-5 marked a tough stretch, as Clemson hosted #19 Auburn, who entered with a national-best 17-game winning streak, and #11 Florida State along with a road game at #10 Virginia Tech. The Tigers were victorious in all three contests by scores of 38-24, 35-30, and 23-3, respectively, marking the first time in history that an ACC team won three consecutive games over top-25 ranked (AP) teams. Clemson also held Virginia Tech without a touchdown for the first time in a game at Blacksburg since 1995.
For his efforts, he was named Bobby Dodd National Coach-of-the-Year in 2011 to become the first Tiger head coach to win a national coach-of-the-year award since 1981, when Danny Ford directed Clemson to the national title.
Swinney, who was also one of five finalists for the Eddie Robinson National Coach-of-the-Year award, one of 10 finalists for the Bear Bryant National Coach-of-the-Year award, one of 10 finalists for the Liberty Mutual Coach-of-the-Year award, and received the Regional AFCA Coach-of-the-Year award in 2011, led the Tigers to their first Orange Bowl berth since 1981 with the help of five First-Team All-ACC players.
Dwayne Allen (TE), Boyd (QB), Andre Branch (DE), Freeman (C), and Sammy Watkins (WR) all earned first-team honors, while Andre Ellington (RB), Chandler Catanzaro (PK), and Brandon Thompson (DT) earned second-team honors. Watkins was also Second-Team All-ACC as a specialist.
Allen received the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end and totaled 50 receptions for 598 yards and eight touchdowns. Boyd set the school record for total yards (4,046), passing yards (3,828), and passing touchdowns (33). Branch, a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, had an ACC-best 17 tackles for loss and an ACC-high 10.5 sacks, including tying school-records for tackles for loss (6) and sacks (4) in Clemson's win at #10 Virginia Tech. Freeman was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy as well.
Watkins was one of the most dynamic freshmen in the nation. The ACC Rookie-of-the-Year totaled 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns along with a 25.0-yard average and one touchdown on kickoff returns despite missing one game due to injury. Watkins teamed up with Andre Ellington to give Clemson a 1,000-yard receiver and 1,000-yard rusher, as Ellington had 1,178 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. Watkins was also an AP First-Team All-American, just the fourth in college football history as a first-year freshman.
Swinney became just the second Tiger coach to lead Clemson's program into a bowl game in his first two full years as head coach, joining his predecessor, Bowden. The 2010 schedule was one of the most challenging in school history, as nine bowl teams were on the regular-season slate and two of the four non-conference opponents were ranked in the top 25 when they played the Tigers, just the second time in 21 years the Tigers faced two top-25 non-conference opponents in the regular season.
The 2010 season included wins over bowl teams Georgia Tech, Maryland, and N.C. State. The Wolfpack were ranked #23 in the nation and were leading the ACC in scoring. But the Clemson defense held N.C. State to just one touchdown and 13 points. The team excelled defensively in 2010 and was 13th in the nation in scoring defense and in the top 25 in both total defense and passing defense.
C.J. Spiller was a unanimous first-team All-American in Swinney's first year, and defensive end Da'Quan Bowers duplicated the feat on the defensive side of the ball. Bowers won the 2010 Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation's top defensive player, and he received the Ted Hendricks Award as the country's top defensive end. He was also a finalist for the Bednarik Award and Lombardi Award. He led the nation in sacks (15.5) and tied for the national lead in tackles for loss (26).
Bowers was one of four First-Team All-ACC players in 2010, as he joined Jarvis Jenkins (DT) and DeAndre McDaniel (S) on defense and Chris Hairston (OT) on offense. Clemson and Maryland tied for the most First-Team All-ACC selections.
In 2009, Swinney's first full year as head coach, he led the Tigers to their first championship of the ACC's Atlantic Division. The Tigers came just six points short of winning their first ACC title in 18 years. Swinney was named ACC Coach-of-the-Year by Sporting News and was a finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach-of-the-Year award.
Swinney accumulated nine wins, second-most among all FBS coaches in their first full year behind Oregon's Chip Kelly. The nine wins tied for fourth-most in ACC history for a first-year head coach. He also led the Tigers to their first bowl win since 2005 in the 21-13 victory over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.
The Tigers reached the nine-win mark playing a schedule that included four games against top-15 opponents, just the second year in school history (1999 was the other) that Clemson played four games against teams ranked in the top 15 of the AP poll. The Tigers' three FBS non-conference opponents had a combined record of 29-10 in 2009. Clemson gave TCU one of its stiffest tests in a 14-10 Horned Frog victory on September 26.
Swinney's first season included a six-game winning streak at midseason, a streak that saw the Tigers score at least 34 points in every game, a first in school history. During that stretch, the Tigers defeated #8 Miami (FL) on the road. The 40-37 overtime victory tied for the highest-ranked team Clemson has defeated on the road in school history.
That was the second of six straight wins, the longest winning streak for the Clemson program in four years. The streak also included a 40-24 win over Florida State and Bobby Bowden, the Hall of Fame coach who is second in victories in FBS history. The winning streak brought Clemson to a #15 national ranking in the AP poll after the ACC Atlantic Division clinching victory over Virginia on November 21.
The Tigers had success on offense, defense, and special teams during the 2009 season. They were 28th in the nation and third in the ACC in scoring offense (31.1), while the defense was 20th in total defense (314.3) and seventh in pass defense (162.8). Clemson finished in a tie for fifth in the country in interceptions (21) as well.
Clemson added a school-record six kick returns for touchdowns in 2009, four on kickoff returns and two on punt returns.
The main reason Clemson was so outstanding on special teams was the play of college football's most dynamic player (Spiller) in 2009. The Tiger running back was named MVP of the ACC in 2009 and was a consensus first-team All-American. He had five kick returns for touchdowns during the 2009 season, an all-time Clemson record, and established the NCAA record for kickoff returns for touchdowns in a career with seven. He was also the only FBS player to score at least one touchdown in every game in 2009.
Overall, the Tigers held down three positions on the All-ACC First-Team and five spots on the second team. Only Virginia Tech had more representatives.
Swinney became Clemson's interim head coach on October 13, 2008 when Tommy Bowden stepped down. Then on December 1, 2008, the "interim" tag was removed, as he took over on a full-time basis as the Tigers' 25th head coach. He had been Clemson's assistant head coach for two years and was in charge of the wide receivers since 2003.
Swinney took over a 3-3 team and led it to a Gator Bowl bid against Nebraska. He guided Clemson to a 4-1 record over the last five games of the regular season, with the only loss at #24 Florida State. That 4-1 record to end the regular season tied for the best mark in the ACC for that time period. Four of his six regular-season opponents were later bowl participants.
Swinney hit the ground running in his first week as interim head coach, as he prepared for a 5-1 Georgia Tech team. He had to re-organize his staff, and regroup his team and Clemson Nation in just five days. While the Tigers lost by four points, he accomplished many goals in that first week through his outstanding leadership. One of the most impressive demonstrations of unity came during the team's "Tiger Walk."
Prior to the game against the Yellow Jackets, Swinney decided to have his team depart buses outside the Lot 5 parking lot near the WestZone at Memorial Stadium and experience the gameday atmosphere. Dressed in jackets and ties, the team was embraced by thousands of Tiger fans who stood 10 deep for the 200-yard march to the stadium. It was the centerpiece of his "All In" theme in his first week as head coach. It is a tradition that has continued.
In his second week as head coach, an off-week, he invited the Clemson student body to a practice, and nearly 1,000 students showed up. He spoke to the group and actually allowed some students to participate during practice, as they were selected to attempt a field goal, punt against a live rush, and field a punt. He also took the entire team to the Greenville Children's Hospital for a visit with young men and women fighting cancer.
He has continued his community involvement through his foundation. His foundation made the first contribution to the cancer fund established for former Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich. Many schools followed his lead the remainder of the season.
The Liberty Mutual Coach-of-the-Year award evaluates coaching performances in terms of coaching excellence, sportsmanship, integrity, academic excellence, and community commitment. It is easy to see why Swinney was a national finalist for that award in his first full season as head coach in 2009, and again in both 2011 and 2012.
The 1993 Alabama graduate joined the Clemson staff prior to the 2003 season. In his first 10 years as an assistant or head coach, the Tigers have finished in the top 25 of the polls six times and totaled 17 wins over top-25 teams, including victories over Florida State (5), Auburn (2), Miami (FL) (2), Virginia Tech (2), Louisiana State (1), and Tennessee (1), during his tenure in Tigertown.
Swinney coached his wide receiver position to a level of consistency that had not been seen previously at Clemson. He had a wideout finish first or second in the ACC in catches in five of his six years as an assistant coach. In his first year, he had three of the top-10 receivers in the ACC, a first in Tiger history. He has coached a First or Second-Team All-ACC wideout (Derrick Hamilton, Airese Currie, Chansi Stuckey, Aaron Kelly, Jacoby Ford, Watkins, Hopkins) in nine of his 10 seasons at Clemson, also an unprecedented feat at Clemson.
In 2004 and 2005, he coached the ACC reception champion (Currie (2004), Stuckey (2005)). It was the first time Clemson had two different players lead the ACC in receptions in consecutive years. In 2007, Kelly led the ACC in yards, giving Swinney an ACC receiving king three out of four years. Stuckey earned First-Team All-ACC honors in back-to-back years, a first for a Tiger wideout in 25 years.
The play of Swinney's wide receivers was a big reason Clemson led the ACC in total offense, rushing offense, and scoring offense during the 2006 season, just the second time an ACC team led the conference in all three categories during the previous 25 seasons. The Tigers also led the league and set school records for yards per play (6.5) and touchdowns (55).
In 2007, Swinney coached Kelly, a First-Team All-ACC selection who led the league in receiving yards per game and touchdown catches (11). He also finished second in receptions per game with a school-record 88 catches, tied for the second-highest total in ACC history. His 11 touchdown catches set a Tiger record as well.
Kelly is Clemson's career reception leader with 232 catches and is second in ACC history. He also has one of the highest totals in Tiger history in career touchdown receptions with 20.
The Alabama native has a reputation as one of the top recruiters in the nation. In 2006, he was listed as the #5 recruiter in the nation by Rivals.com. It marked the second straight year that he was lauded by the website as a top-25 national recruiter. He signed 38 players in his five recruiting seasons as an assistant coach and was a major reason Clemson's 2008 recruiting class was rated #2 in the nation by ESPN.com when he signed 11 players. He was named one of the top-25 recruiters in the nation by Rivals.com in 2007 as well.
When Swinney accepted the interim head coaching position on October 13, 2008, he described his feelings as "bittersweet" because he was taking over for Bowden, who had been his first position coach at Alabama in 1989. He had also brought Swinney back to the coaching profession in 2003 and has had a profound effect on his life. Both had followed similar paths as players, as Bowden was a walk-on at West Virginia and Swinney was a walk-on at Alabama.
Swinney received a commerce & business administration degree from Alabama in 1993 after lettering three times (1990-92). A walk-on who went on to earn a scholarship, Swinney was a wide receiver on Alabama's 1992 National Championship team. He was also named Academic All-SEC along with being an SEC Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll member in 1990 and 1992.
Along with his appearance in the 1993 Sugar Bowl, his Alabama teams played in the 1990 Sugar Bowl, 1991 Fiesta Bowl, and 1991 Blockbuster Bowl. Both Sugar Bowl appearances came after winning the SEC Championship game.
After his playing career, Swinney served as a graduate assistant from 1993-95 at Alabama, where he coached in the 1994 Gator Bowl and 1995 Citrus Bowl. In December of 1995, he received a master's degree in business administration from Alabama.
He became a full-time assistant coach at Alabama in February of 1996 under Head Coach Gene Stallings (now in the Hall of Fame) and coached a total of five seasons there on a full-time basis. He was assigned to coach the Crimson Tide's wide receivers and tight ends in 1996, a season that saw Alabama win the SEC Western Division title and make an Outback Bowl appearance. The following year, he solely coached the tight ends under Head Coach Mike DuBose.
In 1998, he coached Alabama's wide receivers, a position he held for three seasons. At the end of the 1999 campaign, Swinney coached the Crimson Tide in the 2000 Orange Bowl after winning the SEC Championship game. Wide receiver Freddie Milons was the game MVP.
During his time at Alabama, Swinney was a part of six teams with at least 10 wins, five top-10 finishes, one national title (1992), three SEC Championships (1989,92,99), and five SEC Western Division titles (1992,93,94,96,99) as a player and coach. He has coached the #2 receiver at Alabama (Milons) along with the #1 (Kelly), #2 (Hopkins), and #3 (Hamilton) receivers in Tiger history.
As an assistant coach, he had 20 former players either drafted or sign free-agent contracts with NFL teams. The list includes Hamilton, Currie, Kevin Youngblood, Stuckey, and Milons, an All-American at Alabama.
From April of 2001 through February of 2003, Swinney was in private business in Alabama. He married the former Kathleen Bassett in 1994. They have three sons, Will (14), Drew (12), and Clay (9).