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Dabo Swinney: Last man standing?

Fall 2008
The end of the 2008 football season saw head coaching changes at twenty-two universities across the country. As expected, some were well received while others were highly scrutinized. Four of those positions resided in the ACC and SEC as Clemson, Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Boston College all made coaching changes. Let’s revisit those hires and see how each coach has faired.

Dabo Swinney bringing big time success back to Clemson with back to back 10+ win seasons.

Boston College

The hire: Frank Spaziani, Boston College defensive coordinator.

Coach Spaziani served as defensive coordinator under Jeff Jagodzinski and Tom O'Brien. He was promoted to head coach of Boston College on January 13, 2009. Spaziani was well received by the both the Boston media and fan base as he best met the criteria that athletic director DeFilippo set forth for the position. "I really want someone who wants to be at BC and will be here for the length of his contract,'' said DeFilippo in explaining the parameters of his search.

Results: Spaiziani was fired following a 2-10 finish by Boston College this season. Spaziani compiled an overall record of 21-29; including 2 bowl appearance (0-2).

Mississippi State
The hire: Dan Mullen, Florida offensive coordinator.

The 36-year-old offensive coordinator of the Florida Gators was announced on December 11, 2008. After coaching with and under Urban Meyer since 1999, Mullen was widely considered one of the top assistant coaches in college football. Given Mississippi States’ ineptitude under Croom, tough competition in the SEC West and Mullen’s exciting/explosive offense at Florida, this hire was very well received by both the media and Mississippi State faithful.

Results: Since his first season in 2009, Mullen has compiled an overall record of 29-22; including 3 bowl appearances (2-1). 2013 will be Mullen’s 5th season as the Bulldog’s head coach.

Tennessee then to USC

The hire: Lane Kiffin, head coach, Oakland Raiders (fired).

On September 30th, 2008, owner Al Davis relieved Lane Kiffin of his position as head coach of the Oakland Raider. On December 1, 2008, despite no prior experience as a head coach on the collegiate level, Kiffin was introduced as the new head football coach of the Tennessee Volunteers. Although there reviews of the hire were widely mixed, Kiffin’s decision to bring his dad (highly regarded NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin) to the Vols program won over many of the Vol faithful.

Results: After 1 season in Knoxville in which the Vols went 7-6, including a loss in the Chic Fil A Bowl, Kiffin left the Volunteers to take his dream job – head coach of the USC Trojans. Despite being on probation and ineligible for bowls and the Pac 12 championship game his first two seasons, Kiffin has a record of 25-13 - including a bowl loss to GT in his first three seasons. In total, Kiffin is 32-19 with a bowl record of 0-2 in his 4 seasons as a college head coach.

Following Kiffin’s departure, Tennessee hired Louisiana Tech head coach Derek Dooley. During his failed tenure with the Volunteers, Dooley compiled a 15-21 record, which included one bowl appearance (0-1). On November 18, 2012, Dooley was fired from his head coaching position effective immediately after a loss to in-state rival Vanderbilt.


The hire: Gene Chizik, Iowa State head coach

Chizik, a former Auburn defensive coordinator, who was 5-19 in two seasons with the Iowa State Cyclones, returned to Auburn on December 15th 2008 to replace Tommy Tuberville. Chizik hire was widely scrutinized by both the media and Auburn faithful. After all, Chizik had just wrapped up a 2-10 season at Iowa State; and head coaches such as Mike Leach (who was rumored to be interested in moving at the time), Turner Gill (coming off of Buffalo’s first every MAC championship) were available. Not too mention red hot assistant coaches Will Muschamp and Dan Mullen were both being pursued by big name universities and had SEC experience.

Results: In his four seasons at Auburn, Chizik compiled an overall record of 33-19; including 1 SEC West title, 1 SEC title, 1 National Championship and four total bowl appearances (2-2). In 2010, the Auburn Tigers went 14-0 on their way a National Championship victory over the Oregon Ducks. However, despite being the head coach, many credit the championship to star offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and Heisman trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton. Following Newton’s departure to the NFL, the Tigers went 8-5 in 2011. Gus Malzahn was relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator following the season. Auburn managed to go 3-9 in 2012 under Chizik, and he was subsequently fired, a mere two years removed from winning the National Championship.


The hire: Dabo Swinney, Clemson wide receiver coach and recruiting coordinator.

On December 1st, 2008, Dabo Swinney was announced as Clemson's new head coach, removing the "interim" label that was affixed on October 13th, 2008 when Tommy Bowden stepped down following a loss to Wake Forest. Swinney led the Tigers to a 4-2 record over the last half of the season.

Swinney’s hire was widely scrutinized by both the media and Clemson nation. After all, not only did Swinney not have any head coaching experience, he didn’t even have any experience as a coordinator – on any level. Many fans wanted a big name, proven head coach; while others wanted one of the hot up-coming assistants (e.g. Will Mushcamp, Dan Mullen, etc…).


In his 4 full seasons as Clemson’s head coach, Dabo Swinney has compiled an overall record of 36-18 record including 3 ACC Atlantic Division titles; 1 ACC Conference title; 4 bowl appearances (2-2) including a huge win over top ten ranked LSU. Swinney lead Clemson to 11 wins for the first time in thirty years in 2012. In 2011, Dabo Swinney was named the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year.

Despite much scrutiny, and against many predictions, entering the 2013 Dabo Swinney and Dan Mullen are the last two men standing from that 2009 group. Both coaches look to continue to build upon their last four seasons, while the others are starting over…yet again.

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