Alabama Football: Dabo Swinney and never saying never

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Dabo Swinney was recently inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Might he one day replace Saban as Alabama football coach? Dabo says you never say never.

Alabama football fans love for former players to have success in life, inside and outside of football. Clemson head coach, Dabo Swinney, is no exception. Though, Dabo tested the boundaries of loyalty by denying the Tide a 2016 national championship.

Prior to that Clemson national championship, more than a few Alabama football fans doubted Dabo would be a suitable replacement for Nick Saban. When it came to coaching Alabama football, some of us were unofficial members of the ‘Never Dabo’ club.

Despite Dabo’s many fine attributes as a man, some viewed his coaching talent as something below championship standards. He could clearly recruit. He knew how to surround himself with good staff and empower them to perform. But, to some Tide fans, he came across as too much of a ‘players-coach’ and perhaps not tough enough to drive high octane egos to excellence.

As Auburn football has proven, a national championship can be won by recruiting one great player. Deshaun Watson was one of those once-in-a-generation players for Dabo and Clemson. When measured by Alabama football standards for coaching greatness, Dabo remains a work in progress.

Hall of Fame person

Dabo’s coaching stature has blossomed far beyond his selection for the Alabama Football Hall of Fame. The exposure afforded Dabo by being a national championship coach has allowed him to define himself to the college football world. What we have all seen is clearly a leader who fosters the development of young men. As in the video below, Dabo has an extraordinary combination of sincerity, humility and enthusiasm.  Watch as he talks about ‘crawling on’ at Alabama.

Dabo’s bona fides include the endorsement of his college coach, Gene Stallings and his developing friendship with Nick Saban.

Alabama football fans want Nick Saban to coach for many more seasons. He has earned the right to coach as long as he chooses and to step down only when he sees fit. Nick may not want to one day choose his successor. Bryant didn’t, though he did give a list of recommendations. Maybe Saban will decide it best to endorse his eventual replacement when that hopefully distant day arrives.

Just a coincidence right?

If so, consider the following as perhaps more than coincidence. In May 2017, Saban’s Alabama football contract was extended through the 2024 season. In August 2017, Dabo’s Clemson contract was extended through the 2024 season.

Nick Saban will be 73 when college football opens in the fall of 2025. Bill Snyder is returning to Kansas State in 2018 at the age of 79. Saban’s health indicates he could have similar coaching longevity.

In case Nick decides 2024 and 31 years as a head coach is enough, Dabo will only be 55 in the fall of 2015.  He would have plenty of time to establish an Alabama-Swinney dynasty. In the interim, Alabama football fans should cast aside any ‘Never Dabo’ club memberships.

Dabo had the best quote of the night when accepting his Alabama Sports Hall of Fame award, “I’m also here because that’s just how good Alabama is these days, if you beat ‘em they put your butt right in the Hall of Fame.” Dabo combines high character and a sense of humor.