The second 2015 College Football Playoffs are less than two weeks away and with three out of the four teams making their debut in the still new playoff format, the head coaches have their work cut out for them. Keeping players focused, handling increased media scrutiny, and managing lofty expectations are all par for the course.
Over the next several days the Gospel Herald will take a look at all four head coaches in an effort to learn more about each man's character and personality as they lead the young men in their charge toward a possible national championship. The first coach on the list is Dabo Swinney of Clemson University.
Head Coach, Clemson University
The number one team in the country is led by William Christoper "Dabo" Swinney, a 46-year-old native of Birmingham, Alabama, who assumed the position of head coach at Clemson in 2008 after then-head-coach Tommy Bowden was fired mid-season. Swinney was hired by Bowden as the wide-receivers coach in 2002 and developed a reputation as a top-notch recruiter.
A dedicated Christian, Swinney's faithful life has, no doubt, been important in his role as a recruiter over the years, helping nervous parents trust their sons to this man, possibly hundreds of miles away. "I've never been bashful about telling people I'm a Christian. That's just who I am. That's my choice," said Swinney in interview posted on the website Sports On Earth (sportsonearth.com). "It's a free country here. I can live my life the way I want to."
Swinney doesn't hide his faith at all but believes he owes parents that information up front. "Recruiting is very personal," Swinney said in an April 2014 article in the USA Today. "Recruits and their families want - and deserve - to know who you are as a person, not just what kind of coach you are. I try to be a good example to others, and I work hard to live my life according to my faith."
Swinney is well-known for his Christian faith. So well known, in fact, that the anti-Christian activist organization Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a letter of complaint against Swinney in April 2014 to Clemson University, citing "constitutional concerns about how the public university's football program is entangled with religion." As was reported in the USA Today on April 23, 2014, the FFRF's claim included allegations that Swinney promoted a culture of Christianity, one that "violates the constitutional guidelines of the separation of church and state as stipulated in the Establishment Clause of the first amendment."
"Over the past week or two, there has been a lot of discussion of my faith," Swinney said in a statement at the time of the allegation. "We have three rules in our program that everybody must follow: (1) players must go to class, (2) they must give a good effort and (3) they must be good citizens. It is as simple as that."
Still, for Swinney, faith and life as a football coach go hand-in-hand. The Clemson football program, according to ESPN.com, schedules regular team devotionals and provides transportation for players and coaches to "Church Days". In 2012, Clemson wide receiver asked to be baptized in front of teammates and coaches following a practice. However, religious activities are not compulsory. "Participation in religious activities is purely voluntary, and there are no repercussions for students who decline to do so," Clemson spokeswoman Cathy Sams said in a statement following the FFRF complaint. "We are not aware of any complaints from current or former student-athletes about feeling pressured or forced to participate in religious activities."
Swinney is married to Kathleen (Bassett) Swinney and the couple has three sons. Clemson plays #4 Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl, on December 31.