CLEMSON, S.C. – Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is easily among the most engaging of coaches in college football, and certainly the most personable one remaining in the Playoff Four.
His No. 1 Tigers play Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl semifinal, nearly 33 years after Clemson beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to claim a national championship.
South Florida has been pretty good to Clemson (OK, there was the matter of a 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl at the end of the 2011 season, but I think the stink of that has pretty well worn off by now).
Swinney seemed hardly nervous Monday when talking about the biggest game he has coached since being promoted from interim head coach to full-time in 2009. If the players follow their coach’s lead, they’ll not be overwhelmed by the enormity of 4 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
“It’s still just a game, we won’t treat it any different. This game just means we get to play another game (if they win), but as far as how we prepare it doesn’t change anything,” said Swinney, who dearly wants to frame this as a semi-typical bowl match-up. After all, since that blowout by West Virginia, the Tigers have beaten LSU, Ohio State and, yes, Oklahoma (40-6 a year ago) in their last three bowl appearances.
Is late December Dabo time?
“We have a lot of confidence in what we do because we’ve had a lot of (bowl game) success. I do feel like we’ve had great preparation for our games,” Swinney said.
But enough about football.
One of the joys of having Swinney involved in these playoffs is getting to hear him wander far afield of the usual coachspeak.
Like Monday, when he was informed that a Clemson fan got a tattoo of the coach to celebrate the Tigers making the college football playoffs.
“I guess that means we’re really No. 1,” he said with a laugh.
“I’ve had birds and cats and dogs and lizards and iguanas named Dabo. I always tell people that one of these days there’s going to be another human named Dabo, then I’ll really know I left my mark on society.
“But a tattoo never crossed my mind.”
C’mon, somebody name your newborn Dabo. If you really loved Clemson, you would.
Naming a critter after the coach doesn’t really count. “Those have really short life spans,” he lamented.
Alas, Coach Dabo continues to dream. “Maybe somebody will give in,” he said. “I can’t even get a family member to name somebody Dabo. Maybe Dabette? Daborita? We got a lot of babies on this (coaching) staff. I tried to talk them into it and none would do it.”
Win two more games, and you might be surprised at the sudden flood of little Dabos in certain parts of South Carolina.