Florida interested in Clemson DB coach
CLEMSON -- So much for Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney easing back into work following vacation.
A day after arriving back from skiing in Colorado, Swinney met with defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison on Wednesday. Harbison has been contacted by Florida, which is interested in him as a candidate to fill its vacant defensive coordinator position.
Swinney told The Post and Courier he was contacted by the Gators on Wednesday, regarding their interest Harbison, who is one of Clemson's best recruiters. Florida interim coach Steve Addazio is leading the search.
"Sometimes assistants are contacted and I never know about it," Swinney said. "But usually when it gets to me it's pretty serious."
"I don't know if he'll go down there (to interview) ... That's the crazy part of this business. Everyone has to hire coaches, but hopefully we'll be able to keep ours here."
Florida is in the market for a defensive coordinator to replace George Edwards, who was only with the Gators briefly, leaving for a position with the Buffalo Bills. Edwards replaced former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who is now the head coach at Louisville.
Harbison was the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State in 2008, before coming to Clemson.
Harbison is valuable recruiter and co-defensive coordinator at Clemson.
He was named as one of Rivals.com's top 25 recruiters for 2010 on Monday. Harbison signed three prospects from Georgia (Darius Robinson, Corey Crawford and David Beasley) and signed Desmond Brown, DJ Howard and Demont Buice in Alabama.
Where Harbison is on the Gators' wishlist is unclear.
According to reports, Arizona Cardinals defensive backs coach Teryl Austin is the favorite for the job. Austin interviewed in Gainesville, Fla., on Wednesday.
But if the Gators really want Harbison, they can make him an offer difficult to refuse.
And difficult for Clemson to match.
Thanks in part to the SEC's lucrative new television deal, SEC programs can offer more compensation to coaches than other power conference programs.
Tennessee reportedly offered Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele $800,000 per season last month. To remain at Clemson, a source said Steele received a $200,000 raise to push his base salary to $575,000.
Harbison made $250,000 last season at Clemson.
While Strong made a relatively modest $310,000 as Florida's defensive coordinator in 2009, that was before dollars from the SEC's new television deal began to stream into Gainesville.
"It is a business at the end of the day," Swinney said "Guys have to look at opportunities.
"It's not always about the money. Coach Steele stayed here for significantly less money."
It's the fourth time this offseason Swinney has had a program interested in one of his staff members, and the third inquiry by an SEC program.
In addition to Steele and Harbison, Tennessee was interested in defensive line coach Dan Brooks and Southern Cal coach Lane Kiffin contacted Clemson receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott.
So far, Swinney is 3 for 3 in retaining coaches. But if Harbison -- who was unavailable for comment Wednesday -- is indeed offered the Florida position, retaining the defensive backs coach might be Swinney's toughest sell of the offseason.