CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney said this week he thinks a lack of uniformity will lead to a complete restructuring in college athletics at some point. In particular, he sees the larger, more prominent Power 5 schools forming their own division in football.
“I think there’s going to be a complete blowup … especially in football, and there needs to be,” Swinney told ESPN. “I think eventually there will be some type of break and another division. Right now, you got everybody in one group, and it’s not feasible. Alabama has different problems than Middle Tennessee, but we’re trying to make them all the same and it’s just not. I think you’ll have 40 or 50 teams and a commissioner and here are the rules.”
Swinney said the current system is a “mess” and that it’s hard to get anything accomplished as college athletics continue to evolve and change in the new world of the transfer portal and name, image and likeness.
“There’s so much bureaucracy and you can’t get anything done in a real-time manner. It’s frustrating,” Swinney said. “The communication is not good and the rules are outdated. Again, there have been a lot of positives when it comes to the scholarships. But you’ve got all these people voting on things, and it’s just not apples to apples.”
Swinney emphasized that he’s not against NIL, but remains adamantly against the professionalization of college athletics and anything that rises to the level of pay-for-play.
“I am against anything that devalues education,” Swinney said. “That’s what I’m against. I am for anything that incentivizes education. People will come after me because I’ve always said that I’m against the professionalism of college athletics, and I am. Kids don’t know what they don’t know. That’s a slippery slope if you professionalize college athletics, and now you’ve got salaries and taxes and you can fire kids on the spot and they’ve got to pay for their tuition and they pay for their housing and everything else.
“Athletic directors would sign up for that in a heartbeat. They’d save money.”
Swinney, entering his 14th season as Clemson’s head coach, said it’s a good thing that players can cash in on their name, image and likeness once they get to school and have a “platform,” but said it’s nonsensical to think that the current NIL rules weren’t going to be used as a recruiting incentive.
“There’s no rules, no guidance, no nothing,” Swinney said. “It’s out of control. It’s not sustainable. It’s an absolute mess and a train wreck, and the kids are going to be the ones who suffer in the end. There are going to be a lot of kids that end up with no degrees and make decisions based on the wrong things.”
Swinney also said Clemson won’t actively use the transfer portal unless there’s a gap the Tigers need to fill on their roster. For example, he said the Tigers would look to add an offensive lineman in May.
“My transfer portal is right there in that locker room because if I’m constantly going out every year and adding guys from the transfer portal, I’m telling all those guys in that locker room that I don’t believe in them, that I don’t think they can play,” Swinney said. “We’re also not doing our job as coaches and recruiters if we’re bringing in a bunch of transfers.”
Clemson will hold its annual spring game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The Tigers rebounded from a 4-3 start a year ago to win 10 games, but didn’t make the College Football Playoff after six straight appearances. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has shed more than 20 pounds after finishing with nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions last season.
“We’ve got to be better around DJ,” Swinney said. “All young quarterbacks make mistakes, but we weren’t very good around him and that magnified his mistakes. We’ve got to be better around him. He’s got to be better and is better. He’s reshaped his body [down from 260 pounds to 240] and focused on getting better every day.”
Swinney has also been pleased with freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik‘s development. Klubnik, rated as ESPN’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2022 class, enrolled early and is going through spring practice.
“One of the best things for [Uiagalelei] is bringing in Cade Klubnik,” Swinney said. “Nothing makes you better than real competition, and that’s what we’ve got this spring.”