TAMPA, Fla. — The admiration Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has for Nick Saban is clear, and the respect the 65-year-old Saban has for the 47-year-old Swinney is just as evident.
The coaches held a joint press conference at the Tampa Convention Center on Sunday morning leading up to Monday’s 8:17 p.m. ET College Football Playoff Championship Game (TV: ESPN).
There was little talk about the game, somewhat surprising considering the compelling nature of last year’s 45-40 Crimson Tide victory over the Tigers in the championship game.
There was, however, plenty of mutual respect.
Swinney, who grew up an Alabama fan and played for the Tide from 1990-92, described Saban’s four national championships in Tuscaloosa as “incredible,” during the press conference.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, and obviously, when I grew up Coach (Paul “Bear”) Bryant was a hero of mine,” Swinney said. “He came there and Alabama was kind of in a state of flux.
“He brought a system and a philosophy and it didn’t take him long to get it in place. But he’s changed college football. I mean, he’s really been a pioneer and changed a lot of the way things are done in college football, in building infrastructure.”
Saban, unprompted, took care to credit Swinney for walking the fine line of maintaining alumni responsibility while coaching at another institution.
“Dabo has done an outstanding job of managing the situation that he’s in, in a very competitive program, that he’s done a great job in,” Saban said. “But he has also been very supportive of his teammates that he played with at the University of Alabama.
“I really appreciate the way he has managed his loyalty to his alma mater, but done a great job at Clemson at the same time, and never seems to be in conflict.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney
Posted by SEC Country on Sunday, January 8, 2017