I’m torn…not between Clemson and anyone else winning the championship games, but between Clemson remaining special (if not unique) in its culture and other schools incorporating into their own programs what Clemson has had for a long time. Granted, it will take a while for these other schools to completely reform; it starts with recruiting the right sorts: players and coaches. But some schools are at least giving lip service to the change. Nick Saban of Alabama has begun saying the kinds of things Dabo Swinney says all the time; Saban just doesn’t know what he’s saying, yet. By that I mean Saban is intentionally using the same words but there is no deep knowing at the heart level, and you can’t fake the real thing. When Saban gets around to understanding what he is saying, then he needs time to cycle through the seasons to process out the players who were recruited for all the reasons Alabama has been recruiting players. Alabama’s criteria have not been the same as Clemson’s.
I don’t know the whole story, but a Clemson player recently transfered out of the program. I noticed that the story gave some statistics and then enumerated the accomplishments of the player’s father. I suspect this player came into the Clemson program for the wrong reasons. It occurs to me now that most Clemson recruits emphasize the attraction of the strong family feeling among the Clemson coaches, players, and staff. I have also noticed how often the opinion of the player’s mother is key. I suspect that one major criteria in whether Clemson wants a specific recruit or not has to do with how open the young man is to a new strong fatherly influence…which he will definitly be under once working with Dabo Swinney and the other coaches. You will be coached, taught, nurtured, encouraged, but also tested and held accountable. When you emerge from the other end of this journey…this education and training tunnel…you will be a man your mother will be proud of and the world will look up to.
I believe that as long as Clemson is special in this mind-set of selecting those open to the program; training, nurturing, and proving them inside then outside; and encasing the whole thing in love; Clemson will continue to be second to none and victorious to the end. This is business. This is the business that Dabo Swinney is in. This is the business of life and all institutions in the business of preparing young people for life would be wise to line their programs up with what Swinney has built. That includes schools, churches, youth programs, and the military. Commanders in chief, headmasters, scoutmasters, and head coaches should start with the heart and then work with the mind and body, instilling a culture of fierce love and tenacious grit, that does not tolerate indulgences of poor conduct born of fear (racism, abuse, disrespect, hatred,…)
Some aren’t called to such programs…but all could be. All should aspire to be.
So, I’m torn. Part of me wants Clemson to keep its culture unique like a secret..and to always win. The other part of me wants this culture to spread throughout collegiate sports into professional sports and out into the fandoms, neighborhoods, public schools, military, and beyond; all of them will benefit. In many cases, it isn’t possible to be selective in who you bring into a program but it is always possible to be selective in the leadership, instructors, and coaches. And it must always start with the heart.