It’s not quite a “lifetime contract” but for 49-year-old Dabo Swinney, it’s a 10-year, $93 million extension. And at this national championship winning rate, there is probably more where that came from.
Swinney, who has led the Clemson football program to two national titles in the last three seasons and four straight College Football Playoff appearances, on Friday received a new 10-year contract through 2028. The deal is the largest overall package in college football history and averages $9.3 million per year starting at $8,250,000 for 2019, up from the $6.75 million Swinney earned in 2018.
Though big-time head coach contracts are constantly on the rise, Swinney’s new deal is mind-boggling, surpassing all other overall compensation packages in college football (Alabama’s Nick Saban also gets $9.3 million a year but for three fewer years than Swinney's deal) and college basketball ($9.2 million average for Kentucky’s John Calipari).
Swinney, an Alabama graduate and native of the state, is frequently mentioned as a possible replacement for Saban, who is 67. Clemson and Alabama have clashed in the last four College Football Playoff brackets, with Clemson getting the last laugh in a 44-16 national championship game victory in January.
One of the most interesting parts of Swinney’s new deal is strong buyout language addressing a possible Alabama move: Swinney owes Clemson $6 million if he leaves for Alabama through Dec. 31, 2020, and the price moves to $4.5 million for 2021-22, $3 million for 2023-25 and $1.5 million for 2026-27. Otherwise, Swinney’s non-Alabama buyout is $4 million for 2020, $3 million for 2021-22, $2 million for 2023-2025 and $1 million for 2026-27.
Swinney's original Clemson contract was for $800,000 for the 2009 season when he was hired by former athletic director Terry Don Phillips after a 2008 interim stint. Swinney had been Tommy Bowden's wide receivers coach before Bowden was fired following a Thursday night loss at Wake Forest.
Swinney is 116-30 at Clemson with five ACC championships.
“I am grateful and humbled by the incredible commitment Clemson has made to me, my family and our football program,” Swinney said in an official statement. “For more than a decade, we have given our all to provide this world-class university and our incredible fans the championship football program they deserve — to live up to best is the standard.
"With this contract, we make a collective statement that we intend to continue pursuing championships and developing total student-athletes for years to come. Our sustained continuity in vision, people and culture has been a key ingredient to our success, on- and off-the field. I am thankful for the leadership we have at Clemson and appreciate all they do for Clemson Football. I am truly blessed to be your head football coach.”
Not everyone was thrilled with the new deal. USA Today columnist Dan Wolken referenced a Post and Courier quote from Swinney in 2014 in which the coach was critical of the concept of paying players.
“We try to teach our guys, use football to create the opportunities, take advantage of the platform and the brand and the marketing you have available to you," Swinney said. "But as far as paying players, professionalizing college athletics, that's where you lose me. I’ll go do something else, because there's enough entitlement in this world as it is.”
Wolken's column came under the headline: "Dabo Swinney's stance on paying players can't be take seriously after new contract"
Clemson is the projected No. 1 in the Associated Press preseason poll this summer.
Alabama will probably be No. 2.
Which makes another playoff clash more than likely.
Dabo Swinney's new contract details:
Year Base Salary Supplemental Licensing Total
2019 $245,000 $5,505,000 $2,500,000 $8,250,0001
2020 $245,000 $5,505,000 $2,500,000 $8,250,000
2021 $245,000 $5,755,000 $2,500,000 $8,500,000
2022 $245,000 $5,755,000 $2,500,000 $8,500,000
2023 $245,000 $6,005,000 $2,500,000 $8,750,000
2024 $245,000 $6,255,000 $2,500,000 $9,000,000
2025 $245,000 $6,505,000 $2,500,000 $9,250,000
2026 $245,000 $6,755,000 $2,500,000 $9,500,000
2027 $245,000 $7,255,000 $2,500,000 $10,000,000
2028 $245,000 $7,255,000 $2,500,000 $10,000,000
Split Dollar Life Premium (executed by Sept 1, 2019) $1,000,000
Retention Bonus (payable Spring 2021) $1,000,000
Retention Bonus (payable Spring 2023) $1,000,000
1 “True up” for 2019 CY annual comp increase
Total (all Compensation + Retention & S/D) $93,000,000 ($9.30M APY)
Max Incentives = $1,050,000 (cumulative)
APR* = $75,000 / $100,000
(*APR Single Year and Multi Year bonus language and values to remain as existing)
ACC Championship Appearance = $50,000; + $150,000 for Win
Non-CFP Bowl Game Appearance (with 8+ Regular Season Wins) = $50,000
CFP NY6 Bowl Game Appearance = $100,000
CFP Semifinal Appearance = $200,000
CFP Natty Appearance = $200,000
CFP National Champion = $250,000
National COY Award = $50,000 (*COY bonus language and values to remain existing)
Through December 31, 2019: $4M Through December 31, 2024: $2M
Through December 31, 2020: $4M Through December 31, 2025: $2M
Through December 31, 2021: $3M Through December 31, 2026: $1M
Through December 31, 2022: $3M Through December 31, 2027: $1M
Through December 31, 2023: $2M Through December 31, 2028: n/a
Buyout Enhancement for Head Coach position at the University of Alabama:
Through December 31, 2019: $2M Through December 31, 2024: $1M
Through December 31, 2020: $2M Through December 31, 2025: $1M
Through December 31, 2021: $1.5M Through December 31, 2026: $500k
Through December 31, 2022: $1.5M Through December 31, 2027: $500k
Through December 31, 2023: $1M Through December 31, 2028: n/a