Clemson's Dabo Swinney wins Bobby Dodd award

Dabo Swinney has enjoyed a number of “firsts” in his third full season as the head coach at Clemson:

  • The Tigers won their first ACC championship since 1991.
  • They are headed to their first BCS bowl to play West Virginia in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4.
  • They won 10 games for the first time since 1990.
  • They beat four teams ranked in the Top 25, the most in school history for a season.

But right up there with all those firsts he will include this: On Saturday night Swinney became the first Clemson coach to win the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year Award presented by Chick-fil-A.

The Dodd Award, which has been presented since 1976 by the Bobby Dodd Foundation, is unique among coach-of-the-year honors. The nominees must be successful on the field, but they also must adhere to the award’s guiding principle:

“In recognition of a higher and more noble aspect of college coaching ... a style that emphasizes something more than winning the game ... a belief that the game of football should be kept in perspective with college life in general.”

“I was totally blown away when I got the news because the things that Coach Dodd stood for — scholarship, leadership, and integrity — are the things I want to stand for at Clemson,” said Swinney. “Growing up in Alabama we certainly knew about Georgia Tech. And Bill Curry [former Dodd player now head coach at Georgia State] was my first head coach at Alabama. He spent a lot of time talking about Coach Dodd and the impact he had on so many lives.”

Swinney, who played at Alabama, was an assistant coach for the Crimson Tide for eight seasons and then came to Clemson in 2003. At the midpoint of the 2008 season Swinney took over as head coach after the departure of Tommy Bowden. He led the Tigers to the ACC Championship game in his first full season in 2009.

Swinney is known as a man of strong faith who believes that his football team should be involved in community service. He has taken his entire squad to the Greenville Children’s Hospital to visit patients who are battling cancer. His foundation, the “Dabo’s All In Foundation” made the first contribution to the cancer fund established for former Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich.

The award was announced at halftime of Saturday night’s Chick-fil-A Bowl between Auburn and Virginia and will be formally presented to Swinney during ceremonies on campus at a date to be determined.

Swinney is a native of Pelham, Ala., and is married to the former Kathleen Bassett. They have three sons: Will (12), Drew (11), and Clay (8).

Dodd was coach at Tech from 1945-66. As an assistant coach, head coach, and athletic director, Dodd was at Tech 45 years.

Former winners of the Bobby Dodd Award include Georgia’s Vince Dooley, Michigan’s Bo Schembechler, Nebraska’s Tom Osborne, and Mack Brown of Texas.

For the first time Chick-fil-A was the presenting sponsor for the Bobby Dodd Award.