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The Naming of Clemson’s Coach: Where Did “Dabo” Come From?
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Clemson Tigers’ football season ended against one team over the past four seasons, which has led to their head coach getting the most lucrative contract for a head coach in college sports. (Yes, even more than Nick Saban.) But what name would actually be on that contract, because it probably won’t be Dabo.

Since growing up an infant in Alabama — the state he’s beaten twice in the national championship — he’s been called Dabo, but that isn’t actually his real name.

That’s right. Dabo isn’t the real name of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, William Christopher Swinney dreamt of growing up and playing football for the University of Alabama.

As an infant, the future NCAA National Championship winning football coach was called Chris by his father, short for his middle name, Christopher. But his older brother, just 15 months old, would call him “That Boy.” Since his brother was so young, it came out sounding more like “Dabo.” So, the name just stuck.

The name stuck so well, it wasn’t until the third grade when Dabo actually found out his first name was William, and that was only because of those scantron tests in school.

William Christopher has come a long way since those days, starring on the football field and in the classroom in high school, walking onto Alabama’s football team and eventually starting at wide receiver for Alabama’s 1992 national championship team. He was a graduate assistant for the Tide and eventually coached receivers and tight ends from 1996 to 2000.

Once again though, his ties to Alabama led to his current position as the highest-paid coach in college athletics.

In 2002, his former position coach and at-the-time Tigers head coach Tommy Bowden, offered him an assistant coach job working with the receivers at Clemson, and he took on the title of recruiting coordinator for the Tigers. When Bowden was fired in 2008, Swinney took over as the interim head coach and was given the full-time job at the end of the regular season.

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At Clemson, head coach Dabo Swinney has a record of 116-30, including two wins over his dream school, the Alabama Crimson Tide, in the College Football Playoff National Championship. Over the past four seasons, Clemson reached the College Football Playoff, all of which ended against Saban and the Tide. Those meetings resulted in winning two national championships, losing to ‘Bama in the national championship game once, and losing to them in the semifinal game once.

Since the NCAA began the College Football Playoff, Clemson has played in the tournament four of the first five years, beating the Oklahoma Sooners, Ohio State Buckeyes, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and of course, Alabama.

Another impressive record is the one he’s accumulated against ACC conference opponents. Since taking over, the Clemson football team wins over 80 percent of their games in ACC play. Plus, almost a fifth of those losses were to their rival in Tallahassee. In 11 games against the Florida State Seminoles, the Tigers have gone 6-5, but are riding a four-game winning streak into 2019. Not bad since FSU was competing for national championships during that stretch.

Not only have his teams had success on the field when it comes to winning games, but he has also produced tons of NFL talent, and Clemson has become one of the top football programs at producing professional talent.

So it’s safe to say Dabo has completely changed his program for the better in every way, yet somehow, most people don’t even know his real name.

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