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Dabo Swinney doubles down, says critics won’t ‘steal my joy’

David HaleESPN EditorOctober 31, 2023, 1:02 p.m. ET5 minute reading

Dabo Swinney speaks out on caller frustrated by Clemson departure

Dabo Swinney doesn’t hold back a caller frustrated by Clemson’s 4-4 start to the season.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney doubled down on his emphatic monologue from the day before on Tuesday, saying too many fans were no longer enjoying the win and insisting he wouldn’t allow criticism surrounding the Clemson’s 4-4 start Tigers to “steal my joy”.

“I have a long way to go in this profession,” Swinney said in response to a question about the difference between fair and unfair criticism. “If they want me to come back here, I’m going to fight like hell to get it back to standard.

“But I’m not going to let anything steal the joy from what I do. That doesn’t mean I’m happy, but I have a lot of joy in what I do. I’m not going to let it win.”

Swinney lashed out Monday night at a caller to his radio show, who introduced himself only as “Tyler from Spartanburg,” about the lack of appreciation after so many years of success — a tirade he called ” Old Testament answer” to a problem. “Question of the Old Testament.” Swinney later suggested he would continue coaching for another 15 years, even if not at Clemson.

On Tuesday, Swinney picked up where he left off, saying a portion of the fan base had become too critical in attacking his coaches and players.

“I’m not going to let one season, when I know exactly what the problems are, and a group of great kids and great coaches, I’m not going to let one season ruin that,” Swinney said. “I’m going to fight for this program, and I hope we can get some appreciation back here.

“It’s really hard to win. All you have to do is look around the country. What happened here is historic. We’re going through a bad year. It’s my responsibility. Nobody is happy. It’s my fault. , 100 percent. I’m not asking anyone to be happy, but let’s not eat ours.

Swinney emphasized that he believed the vast majority of Clemson fans remained supportive of him and the program, but enough voices had expressed their frustrations that he believed it was having an impact on the program.

“We’ve gotten to a point where, even if you win, people are unhappy,” he said. “I said when I got here (in 2008), you have to be all in. Too many people are only half.”

Swinney has faced significant criticism for, among other things, his failure to use the transfer portal to address roster weaknesses as well as hiring a coaching staff comprised almost entirely of assistants with little of experience outside of Clemson.

Swinney did not address any of those concerns Tuesday, but said he wouldn’t change who he is or how he runs his program, simply because the team has lost more games than he would like. this season.

“I always do what I think is best for the player, what’s best for the long term of our program, and I do what’s best in the moment. Nothing’s going to change,” he said. Swinney said. “Some people say I’m stubborn, but I say I’m convinced of my beliefs, and there aren’t enough people convinced of their beliefs.”

With last week’s loss to NC State, Clemson is assured of ending a streak of 12 consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins, and the 2023 campaign marks Swinney’s worst conference record since 2010.

Clemson faces Notre Dame on Saturday, with remaining games against Georgia Tech, North Carolina and rival South Carolina. The Tigers need to win at least two of these games to avoid missing a bowl for the first time in Swinney’s tenure as head coach.

Swinney argued Tuesday that his team’s problems are minor and that “if we hadn’t led the country in fumbles, we’d be 8-0.”

“No. 1, we’re last in the country in fumbles,” Swinney said. “Number 2, we’re last in the nation in fumbles. And number 3, we’re last in the nation in fumbles. And I’ll give you number 4: because of the location where we missed the fumbles. plays, we are close to the last markers in the red zone.

“So there you go. Leave everything else as it is, normal football stuff, but you’re not going to win football games if you turn the ball over at least twice a game.”

Clemson lost its opener to Duke 28-7 after turning the ball over three times, including two fumbles. Three weeks later, Clemson lost in double overtime to Florida State in a game where Seminoles linebacker Kalen DeLoach dislodged the ball on a Cade Klubnik sack and returned it for a touchdown.

Against Miami two weeks ago, Clemson turned the ball over three times, including twice deep in Hurricanes territory, before losing in overtime. Last week, the Tigers fell to NC State by 7 in a game in which Wolfpack linebacker Payton Wilson returned an interception for a touchdown.

Swinney said this season represents the most adversity Clemson has endured in more than a decade, and he hopes it serves as an opportunity for his team to grow.

“It’s a season that could have been,” Swinney said. “But if you’re a competitor, you want to play hard and compete to win. We’re going to learn a lot these next four weeks. I’m really looking forward to it actually. We’re going to learn a lot from people, see how these guys will fight.

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