Every great story needs conflict. The main character should be challenged by a fierce rival who will stop at nothing to see them fail. Today, the Alabama Crimson Tide is the Goliath of modern college football. Nick Saban’s program has been the top-ranked team at some point in every year since 2008, and few programs have figured out how to beat them. One of those is the Clemson Tigers, who suddenly have everyone’s attention.
After meeting Alabama in the College Football Playoff four-straight years and winning twice, the Clemson Tigers, their fans, and every anti-Alabama pundit around the country are basking in a glorious offseason. The 44-16 thrashing Clemson put on the Crimson Tide in the 2019 National Championship Game is fresh in our minds, but it’s ridiculous how quickly everyone forgot that Clemson is only here thanks to Alabama.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is one of the most well liked and respected leaders in all of college football. He’s charismatic, smart and gets the best out of every player who touches Howard’s Rock on game day.
Most importantly, Alabama bred him for success.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Swinney attended The University of Alabama and played for coach Gene Stallings. He was part of the 1994 Alabama team that finished 12-1 and defeated Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl, and twice Swinney was named Academic All-SEC as a wide receiver. He’d coach at Alabama after graduating up until 2000, when he stepped away from football to work in real estate.
In 2003, Clemson University’s Tommy Bowden — more famous for his last name than coaching success — hired Swinney to coach wide receivers and be the program’s Recruiting Coordinator. Since Swinney took over as head coach halfway through 2008, Clemson has won five ACC titles, more than 100 games and two national championships.
Clemson chased Alabama to the top of the mountain, and suddenly, everyone’s singing Orange Empire and hurling insults at the faithful fans in Tuscaloosa.
The disrespect is so bad that Clemson players like Christian Wilkins, Trevor Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and several others signed an Alabama helmet boasting the game’s final score that also reads “TIDE ROLLED.”
It’s amazing what happens when a champion loses. All of a sudden, more and more people feel confident claiming Alabama cheats to secure top-ranked recruiting classes and love blurting out “44-16” to counter every point made in favor of the Crimson Tide. When Clemson beats Alabama for a third time in five tries and sustains their success over an entire decade, this becomes a completely different argument.
Until then, don’t write the ending before it comes. There’s still a lot more to this story you haven’t read.