Reverse Hatfield Syndrome: Clemson Coaching Situation

Posted by Brandon Rink on October 5, 2009 under ACC Football | 5 Comments to Read

This editorial comes from listening to hours of Clemson fans on the radio today…

Go sit on the bench before I insert you at another awkward time!

Go sit on the bench before I insert you at another awkward time!

Remember Ken Hatfield?

Yeah, probably not for his career at Clemson(32-13-1–I’d guess a few people would take that 4 year run now), but he was the guy that replaced the legend, Danny Ford. We can argue the merits of Clemson dismissing Ford all day–honestly, it was an era that was before my time(which speaks to irrelevancy now of it to begin with). Hatfield won an ACC Championship in his 4 years at Clemson–but in the desire not to go too revisionist history here–Clemson was winning a lot of them around that time. Hatfield was not going to satisfy Clemson fans no matter what.

Dabo isn’t going to either. Former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden left Swinney in an unenviable position. The expectations of a rabid fanbase combined with frustration of the Bowden years equals all the more viotrol towards Dabo when he does not win. Going into this season, there were a lot of hurt feelings among people who had different candidates in mind for the Clemson job post-Bowden(and the names were numerous as they had a lot of time to come up with them), but some were “all-in”–and a lot were “in-until-Dabo-fails-then-I’m-gonna-tell-everybody-I-was-right-to-begin-with-ha!”. It is a common disease among fans in this age where access is plentiful and a shortage of intelligence is prevalent on message boards, talk radio, and lastly, the blogosphere(ironic–if you disagree with me).

If we have learned anything in these five games with Clemson, the cupboard may have been a little more bare than we thought. Maybe not in talent so much, but in the ability to pull together as a team and execute. Coaching is an issue no doubt, but players make plays. Those plays are not being made in Clemson in the key situations. The players that are making plays are easily seen in guys like C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, or Deandre McDaniel, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Clemson is a team with good-to-great players, but just not a good-to-great team right now. The Tigers were not quite the take one coach out–insert another and they win the ACC that many thought they could be.

In the age of the quick-trigger finger of ADs, Clemson fans are flooding their favorite media outlet to gather the torches and pitchforks for Dabo’s coaching regime to get a change. It’s ridiculous. Clemson has shown itself to not be a quick-fix. From what I have seen, Swinney is a guy that will work hard to turn that around–but it will require the ever-shrinking value of patience. So what if Clemson does not win the ACC this season? They have not done it since Hatfield in 1991! If you believed in Dabo before the season, how can you want to fire him now? What Swinney does at Clemson will be measured in 2-3 years if they let him–and in this economy–got to think he will have to be there unless the school desires to fire Swinney and their AD Terry Don Phillips. Swinney is Phillips’ biggest decision at Clemson and if Dabo goes–the blame falls on Phillips for the hire.

Basically, the take-home message here is to ease off the ledge, Clemson fans. I realize it is tremendously disappointing to nearly be out of it yet again, but if you believed in this coach before the season, there has not been anything that should shake that if you are looking long term. If you didn’t believe in Swinney, obviously (insert your hire for the job) was the clear right choice for the Tigers–Clemson is sorry for not having you as AD.

Thanks for reading my therapy session…Would actually love to have the Clemson coaching decision discussion no matter how exasperated I sound with it…It is thoroughly intriguing to me.

  • cuorange said,

    To a large part I agree with you. The people who say things like “Clemson has more talent than anyone” disturb me. Bull. We have about the third best talent in our conference (behind Miami and FSU) and a couple others are right on our tail (not to mention SC).

    On a national level it’s not even close. We have one player (mabye a second in McDaniel) that would be starting for Texas or USC or Florida. ONE!

    Some feel that for all intents and purposes Bowden is still coaching the team. They will NEVER be happy with Dabo, I don’t care what he does short of winning the NC.

    You don’t turn around 10 years of attitude in one year. He deserves at least 3. Some peoples entire life and self-worth are wrapped up in Clemson’s football record. I was 20 years old once too and lived and died with the Tigers (fortunately Ford was coaching then). I grew up and matured and realized life goes on. Message Board guy would say this means I accept losing.

    That said, Saturday was pathetic. I for one was hoping those days left with Bowden. I now have my doubts, but am open minded enough to give it some time.

  • B. Rink said,


    Agreed, thanks for the comment!

  • cuorange said,

    BTW – Point taken on Miami. I looked at their upcoming schedule…they could run the table, but either way their stats will improve….interesting game at South Florida to close the season…

  • Ben said,

    Dabo would have been given more patience had he hired a big time OC. We continue to struggle on Offense and the Defense has to carry the team. Strong DC, weak OC. Go figure.

  • B_Rink said,


    That’s a good point…I can see where could cause some of the frustration involved here, but five games is not exactly a big sample-size for what Napier will do at Clemson. There were certainly spots in Clemson’s losses where his personnel could have picked him a lot better. It’s ridiculous to consider firing Dabo now is what my point is…they come out flat and lose by 3 TDs against Wake…have at it…but now, watch and see what happens.

    Thanks for the comment, Ben!


    USF is an interesting game for sure for Miami…they could own the state with a win there(or atleast the ACC).