When Nick Saban eventually leaves Alabama, there's one name that will be atop every list to replace him: Dabo Swinney.
Dabo Swinney is an Alabama football alumnus. He's also one of the few coaches that has gone head-to-head with Nick Saban in recent years.
At the end of the 2015 season, Alabama edged out Swinney's Clemson Tigers for the national title. Clemson got its revenge the following year.
Both games were incredible. The 2017-18 edition, in this year's College Football Playoff semifinal, did not quite live up, but Clemson has cemented itself as a college football power.
Naturally, some assume that whenever Saban does retire, Swinney will head to his alma mater to replace him. And he would be the natural top choice.
However, Clemson is doing everything it can to make it too attractive for him to leave when the time comes. Swinney just received a huge new contract that made him the nation's second-highest paid coach behind Saban in 2017. He also built a new house in the area.
None of that is to say that Alabama couldn't poach him. However, athletic director Dan Radakovich is ready for the attempt.
The State asked the Clemson AD about the possibility. He was relatively straightforward about things.
“That’s not something that I think about every night when my head hits the pillow, but certainly whether it’s in football or basketball or baseball or any of our sports, as an AD, you have to be ready for some of those things that may come down the path,” Radakovich said.
“I certainly hope that we’ve been able to demonstrate to Dabo that you can get to the highest level right here at Clemson, and he’s been able to do that. So there’s so many positives about the university,” Radakovich said. “We have a great Board of Trustees. We have an incredible president. We have some alignment going there that has allowed us to do our job, and I think that you don’t find that everywhere, but we have it here. I think that’s a big X factor.”
Swinney began his coaching career at Alabama as a graduate assistant in 1993. He moved up to coach wide receivers and tight ends, before taking a job at Clemson in 2003.
He took over as the Tigers interim head coach during the 2008 season, and had that tag removed after the season. He is 101-30 as a head coach, with one national championship and four conference titles, including a current streak of three straight.