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July 22, 2021

Dabo Swinney

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Clemson Tigers

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We welcome Coach Swinney to the podium. Questions for Dabo.

Q. What role do you see the NIL changes, how that fits into the world of recruiting, how much you've thought about how you may use that in a pitch when you're trying to get an athlete?

DABO SWINNEY: I don't see it changing a whole lot as far as what we do. The goal of our program is graduating young men, developing great men, equipping them with tools for life, making sure they have a good experience and win a championship. It's been that way since 2009. I don't see that changing one bit.

This is just another one of those tools that we have to help, come alongside and equip them with. We've been doing P.A.W. Journey for 12 years. P.A.W. Journey is a curriculum, and it has been for a long time. We've been doing financial literacy, agent education, all these things, for 12 years.

There's a couple other pieces we need to add to that. We are. We've got internal teams, external teams. We've made it as easy as we can possibly make it. The biggest thing is help 'em, educate 'em, equip 'em, help them navigate any opportunities that some of them may have.

Like I said, the goal, the target has not changed at all. I think, kind of like a bowling alley right here, we all know what we're trying to do as a program, we kind of got to be the bumpers so that we can make sure they hit the target.

These are young people. This is a different dynamic. Easy for maybe some of them to lose focus on maybe the long-term and get distracted maybe by the short-term. So our job is educate, equip, help them navigate, making sure they have every resource they could possibly need, make sure we hit the long-term target that we're all after.

Q. You were a little apprehensive about the NIL at first. Seems like your sentiments have changed. You are one of the top programs in the nation. Can you elaborate on how you're going to help players, if your current players want to approach other companies, how you're going to facilitate that?

DABO SWINNEY: I've never been apprehensive about NIL. That's not the story. People hear what they want to hear, then they write what they want to write, then people believe what they want to believe.

My comments were I'm against the professionalization of college athletics. Always have been, always will be. I'm for education, graduating, equipping young people through the game of football for life. That's what it's always been about for me. That's what it's always going to be about in college football.

This does not change the collegiate model. This is just common sense. To say that is inaccurate, all right? This is common sense. If a young guys want to go do an autograph signing, if a guy wants to go back and do a camp in his hometown, I worked all through college, there was never a day I didn't work on my time. I cleaned gutters, umpired, cut grass, sold Cutco knives. I worked non-stop all through college.

For our kids to not have the opportunity to work on their time, I've never agreed with that. That's a common sense thing to me. I would have liked more to have been done through the scholarship, to be quite honest with you, because then everybody could participate.

NIL is going to be for some, not for everybody. But we can't facilitate. We can educate. We can navigate. We can equip. We've got an entire educational library. July 1 didn't just get here and go, Okay, you figure this out. This is something we've been prepared for for a long time and built for. Like I said, through our P.A.W. Journey program, for 12 years.

Appreciate your question, but the beginning of it's not accurate.

Q. You have never shied away from being a strong man of faith and speaking on that publicly. What has that past year taught you and how do you use it as a leader?

DABO SWINNEY: What has it taught me? I think just an even more deeper appreciation for life, for family, for the ability to do what you love to do with people that you love doing it with. The little things, you know. I mean, just a deeper appreciation for that I think more than anything.

But most of all, that, hey, God is still on the throne, you know? My word last year was 'faith'. I don't ever know why my word is my word, but last year it was 'faith'. Certainly grew in my faith through this past year. Thankful that I've got a God that is there all the time and available 24/7, has paved the path for all of us.

Q. You got some good news over the summer, Justin Foster is coming back. How happy are you to have him back on your defense? How is his progress?

DABO SWINNEY: He's doing great, which is why he came back. I tried to talk him out of it in January, just say, Why don't we just give it some time here.

But he was ready to get out. He had a job. He was ready to kind of go. But in May he called me and said, "Coach, is there a chance I could still come back? I feel great."

He'd been training, running. Things had turned around for him.

And, "Absolutely."

He's just a great, great young man. He's one of the most respected guys on our team, incredibly smart. He's a graduate. He is a tough, tough, hard-nosed football player. So he just brings invaluable depth and experience and leadership to that position.

With him back, we have five guys, five starters, at defensive end. Just really thankful. I'm happy for him to be able to end his career. He's a guy that will have a chance to play at the next level. So to be able to see him kind of get back to a good place, because it was a really hard year for him. So I'm thankful and grateful that he is where he is now.

Q. Did you attend Jack Swarbrick's playoff presentation last night? If so, did it allay or perhaps even affirm some of the concerns you voiced to your local media the other day?

DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, I was there. Man, he did a phenomenal job. I will say this: the four people, I can't remember who all it was, but the four people who I guess authored it, put the presentation together, spent two years trying to study and come up with something, research, take the charge that had been given to them I guess by the presidents or the committee or whatever, they did a phenomenal job.

No, it doesn't change my stance at all. Again, my opinion, it doesn't mean anything because that train's left the station, you know. I think sitting around and talking about what this coach thinks or that coach is a waste of time at this point. I think expansion of the playoff is inevitable. I think the conversation needs to be, How do we get it right for the player, end of the day? How do we save the bowls?

I think we're past the point of -- not that's a foregone conclusion that it's 12 teams or whatever. I think there's a long way to go and a lot of conversation to be had on what's going to happen. I think expansion is going to be inevitable.

Money's driving that. I assume that's what the fans want. But I think most importantly what do the players want. To ask these guys to have to show up earlier, to have no open dates, to have no break between the championship game and another game, to play more games, I don't think -- that may be what's best for the money, what's best for the fans, but I don't think that's what is best for the player.

That's my opinion. Nothing changes. So I think if we're going to expand, I think you should talk about the season as well. Maybe you go to 11 games instead of asking these guys to play more. Having been there to say -- I can just visualize being in Tampa after beating Alabama with one second on the clock, and then being out there at Levi Stadium, you've been in a championship game, you've been in a playoff game, you've been in a national championship game. Now you sit there and look at these guys and say, All right, guys, we got one more. You're just spent. You're exhausted.

What it takes at that level. People say, It's just one more game. To me, that is a total lack of appreciation for what it takes to win a game, to prepare for a game, to play in a game of that magnitude. When you get to that level, you're talking about the best of the best, the elite of the elite. These guys all have, at that level, NFL aspirations, and a lot of them are going to play in the NFL. You got combines, you got a lot going on.

So I think there's a lot of -- lot of discussion. It was a fantastic presentation. He did an awesome job. But, again, we'll play whatever system, whatever rules we got. I was not for a four-team playoff. It's not like anything has changed for me.

I just want the players to be considered in that. We should not ask more of the player, in my opinion.

Q. Why is it so important for you to bring back former players like the recent news of Tajh Boyd joining your staff, what they bring to your staff?

DABO SWINNEY: I mean, Clemson is Clemson family. We've talked about that from day one when we built our program. I love being able to give a former player opportunity where it's warranted. It's been cool to see so many guys pursue coaching. I got another one right over here that's going to be -- he's like Pete Rose this year, player coach. But Skalski is going to be a coach whenever he's done. I love being able to nurture that. I love giving former players opportunities.

I think there's nobody more invested in your program than those who have put their blood, sweat and tears into it. So all the way from Tony Elliott who I coached, who was a captain for me. I think we've got 22 former players that are either full-time coaches, coordinators, P.A.W. Journey, strength and conditioning, player development, analysts, whatever it may be. I think their perspective is priceless. They've lived it. They've done it.

Most of them, most all of them, played for me. I'm not here if it wasn't for the player. So for me to be able to give a guy an opportunity to played for me is a big deal.

I'm also here because Gene Stallings gave me the opportunity. He could have given that opportunity to a lot of people, but he gave the opportunity to me because I had played for him for three years. I had been a GA for him for three years. Then, boom, he hired me full-time after that.

Without that opportunity to be that graduate assistant, that opportunity to learn under him, come in and work, I'm probably not standing here for sure.

To me, I love giving a former player the opportunity and, again, the perspective they bring to your team.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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