Has Dabo Swinney supplanted Danny Ford as Clemson’s greatest coach of all time or does he still have miles to go before he can move ahead of the Solid Orange icon? This calls for a SportsTalk debate! Kornblut and KMac hardly ever agree on anything and it should come as no surprise they don’t see eye to eye on this topic. Below both of them make their case. So who is wrong and who is right? Is the King of Clemson Dabo Swinney or Danny Ford?
Here’s the case for both:
KMac: Dabo is the best
Move over Danny, Dabo is the king of Clemson football now. Danny Ford deserves credit for putting Clemson football on the map, but Dabo Swinney has taken them to another level. Swinney has gone from real estate salesman to savior in a story that would make for a great Disney movie. In eight years Swinney has won 89 games, an average that is a little over 11 wins per season. Sure, they play more games now than in the Ford era, but Swinney’s winning percentage (76%) is the same as Ford’s was during his 12 year tenure with the Tigers. It is also worth noting that Swinney coaches in a much more competitive ACC than the one Ford traversed in the 1980s.
Yeah, Danny Ford won some big games, but so has Dabo. Just this season Dabo beat the all of the teams that won the past seven national championships (Auburn, Florida State, Ohio State, Alabama).
Dabo Swinney beat both Urban Meyer and Nick Saban in a 10 day period to clinch a national title. That’s pretty strong. He was recently named the winner of the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year. He’s won that award twice, more than any other coach in college football.
Also, you can’t make this argument between Dabo and Danny without bringing up the dark parts of Ford’s tenure at Clemson. Ford brought on NCAA violations and probation and his run Tiger Town ended about as well as Donald Trump’s first two marriages.
Conversely, Swinney has built a program that hasn’t had a sniff of NCAA issues or scandal and is on a level that other programs are trying to copy them. He has been a true ambassador for the school and turned himself into a household name in college football.
Yes, Danny Ford belongs on Clemson’s Mount Rushmore, so long as he is second in line behind Dabo Swinney.
Kornblut: Danny Ford is the best
Dabo Swinney or Danny Ford?
Well you never forget your first. And Clemson fans have not, and will not, forget the man to who led them out of the college football wilderness and to the promised land to their first national championship in 1981.
There are plenty of numerical reasons to place Danny Ford atop the of any list of all time Clemson coaches: 1-national championship; 5-ACC Championships; 6-bowl wins; 7-wins over USC in 11 meetings; 18-wins over AP top 20 teams; 21-wins over coaches in the Hall of Fame; 26-All Americans produced; 33-age win he won national championship, still youngest in history; 41-number of consecutive AP Polls ranking Clemson in the top 20; 42-NFL Draft picks; 71-First team All ACC players produced; 76-winning percentage, 3rd best in ACC history; 96-number of wins at Clemson.
The numbers alone are enough to support any argument about Ford’s place in Clemson history. But there’s more.
He brought an attitude of toughness and physicality during a time when the fullback was actually a necessary position. His players followed his lead and developed a confidence and swagger that Clemson fans could relate to. His defenses were some of the best of that era. Only once under Ford did Clemson allow 20 points per game in a season, and twice the Tigers allowed under 10 points a game in a season.
Ford also was a recruiter nonpareil with innovations and effort not widely seen during his time. He dominated the Carolinas and Georgia in landing most of the top players in those states, and he often dipped into North Florida for big time talent
And, he was the first to put his players in orange pants, a move that forever changed the Clemson brand.
In full disclosure, Ford also had his warts. He was at the epicenter of controversies with NCAA issues and battles with his own administration. His time at Clemson ended ugly, his departure splintering the Clemson family like nothing before or since.
But Ford has since been welcomed back into the family, his name in the Clemson Hall of Fame and the Ring of Honor inside Memorial Stadium. And if one day statues are to be erected of coaching greats, there’s no doubt Ford’s should stand just a tad taller than that of Frank Howard’s and Dabo Swinney’s. The decade of the 80’s in Clemson football, overseen by Ford, took Howard’s traditions to a new level and laid the groundwork for the success Swinney and the Tigers are enjoying today.