When it comes to college football, the Clemson Tigers are the cream of the crop. Head coach Dabo Swinney consistently has his teams playing in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game and locking up some of the nation’s top recruits. Life is good, no doubt, and his home life makes it all possible.
Behind every great man is a great woman, and perhaps nobody understands that better than Swinney. He and wife Kathleen Swinney have been through it all together — literally. The two met when they were elementary school in Birmingham, Alabama, started dating in high school, went to college together and have been side-by-side ever since.
It’s rather rare to find couples who have liked each other since those early, early days, and that’s part of what makes the Swinney family so special.
Dabo Swinney’s Wife Kathleen Swinney
Before Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney became one of the highest-paid NCAA coaches in the country, and Kathleen was dubbed the de facto First Lady of Clemson, the two grew up together in Alabama.
Dabo was in second grade and Kathleen — then Kathleen Bassett — in first grade when they met, according to The Post and Courier, and the rest is history.
Both of them attended Pelham High School, where they first dated. Kathleen received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Alabama. Both earned their Master’s degree (Dabo got his in business administration) from the University of Alabama. Both love football (Dabo even walked on to play wide receiver for the Crimson Tide). Both love each other. It’s a perfect match all the way around, and it’s led to some incredible memories.
“We always kind of liked each other, and when I was old enough to date in high school, we did.”
— Kathleen Swinney, via The Greenville News
It hasn’t all been easy, though. The couple ate Spaghetti O’s every night when they were newly weds as Dabo began his path to coaching greatness.
Kathleen is a breast cancer survivor, according to The Post and Courier, and runs the family’s All In Team Foundation, which raises awareness and money for multiple organizations, including breast cancer research. She’s reportedly had a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy over concerns for health.
Kathleen’s sister, Lisa Lamb, died of cancer in 2011.
Dabo Swinney’s Coaching Journey
Dabo Swinney was a graduate assistant at Alabama under Gene Stallings for a couple of years before leading the Tide’s wide receivers and tight ends until 2000. He was then fired from his position after Mike DeBose was kicked off town, leaving Swinney without a job.
It wasn’t until Tommy Bowden, who knew Swinney from his days at Alabama, offered him the wide receivers coach position at Clemson University for the 2003. He has been in South Carolina ever since.
From receivers coach to assistant head coach to offensive coordinator to interim head coach to being the full-time leader and head football coach of the Tigers’ program, Swinney has endured a lot and made a name for himself as a college football coach.
Swinney has won two national titles, seven ACC championships, and is a two-time ACC Coach of the Year. Clemson consistently churns out NFL football players, too.
Most importantly, Kathleen has been right there with him.
Dabo Swinney’s Kids
Dabo and Kathleen Swinney have three children. Will Swinney is a senior wide receiver on the Clemson football team. Drew Swinney is a junior and a fellow walk-on receiver with the football program. Clay Swinney is in high school.
Will and Drew were on the Tigers team that lost to LSU in the national title game on ESPN.
Clemson Athletics is in good hands with Dabo Swinney. Kathleen deserves a lot of credit for that, too.
This post was originally published on April 2, 2020.