Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney gets it. He understands where to butter his bread.
Swinney had built into his contract a $500,000 bonus for winning the ACC championship, a rather healthy reward for achieving something many Tigers fans believe should occur every year. And in December, the Tigers routed Virginia Tech for the league crown, the program’s first in 20 years.
So what did Swinney decide to do with his windfall? He has donated a large chunk of it to bolster the salaries of seven assistant coaches. NCAA rules don’t allow coaches to pay assistants bonuses out of their own pockets, so Swinney had written into his contract an avenue that allows him to give back some, spearheading it toward bettering the program. And given his youth as a head coach -– he’s 42 and just concluded his third full season at the helm — and the obvious need for a strong staff, Swinney opted to take care of his guys.
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The Clemson coach’s decision is a wise and mature one. Swinney recognizes he’s not the reason the Tigers won the ACC title, though he obviously played a vital role. Swinney is a fairly humble man who doesn’t hesitate to give credit where it’s due.
And he also knows giving away the bonus money is an investment on Clemson’s future, and obviously his personally.
Swinney played at Alabama, but from the accounts of those close to him, he’s now a Clemson man. He embraces the idea of being at Clemson for the duration of his career, as Swinney believes great things can be accomplished at the school, which won a national title in football in 1981.
So investing most of his bonus cash to his staff is one thing, but the personal touch of showing them how important they are can have a residual effect.
Studies regarding employee satisfaction have long concluded that being appreciated and feeling a part of an organization’s success always rank higher than increased wages. With this move by Swinney, he’s meeting both needs.
He’s lining the wallets of his coaches while giving each a good old-fashioned football bear hug.
“I am extremely grateful to the Board of Trustees for its approval of these salary increases,” Swinney said in a statement released by the school. “We have a great staff and I want to do everything I can to keep it together at a critical time in our program.”
Clemson returns many of its key players that helped get the team to the Orange Bowl this past season. Included are quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. The Tigers will be up against Florida State in the pre-season battle for which team is most selected to win the Atlantic Division title, but their annual matchup this year is in Tallahassee, FL.
So maintaining the staff when Clemson has an opportunity at a lengthy stay on the national scene is paramount. Swinney kept offensive coordinator Chad Morris, and has now taken care of the others.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has used the model of staff continuity to his advantage for years, and Swinney intends on taking the same approach. And even if he loses some staffers, folks will line up at his door wanting to play for a coach who gives out of his own pocket for the sake of the assistants and program.