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Dabo Swinney once needed a miracle to pay tuition. Now, he holds college football's biggest coaching contract


'It's well deserved'

Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Dabo Swinney took over as Clemson University's head football coach during an incredibly troubled 2008 season. In the years since, he has led the Tigers to become a powerhouse team, with two national championships in the last three years. The school's previous national title was in 1981.

And on top of that, he's now the highest-paid college football coach in the United States.

According to a Friday report from the Greenville News, Clemson handed Swinney his second contract extension in three years Friday morning, and this one is for a whopping $93 million over the course of the next 10 years. The contract was unanimously approved by the Clemson Board of Trustees Compensation Committee.

"I don't think the board can really capture the gratitude for Coach Swinney and the way he has run his program," committee Chairman Smyth McKissick said in anticipation of the vote, according to the South Carolina newspaper.

The contract gives Swinney $10.25 million in the first year of the contract, with $8.25 million in total salary. The sum of total compensation over the next decade puts him ahead of all his other fellow Division I head coaches, including the University of Alabama's Nick Saban, Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher, and the University of Michigan's Jim Harbaugh.

"I'm going to have to hit him up and we're going to have to go break his back at a steakhouse," former Clemson player and newly drafted Miami Dolphin Christian Wilkins said. "It's well deserved."

"I am grateful and humbled by the incredible commitment Clemson has made to me, my family and our football program," Swinney said in a 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."

Addressing recent concerns that Swinney may one day leave Clemson for his Alabama alma mater, the contract also reportedly contains an "enhanced buyout" to serve as an incentive against leaving his current job for the team he has faced in three of the last four national championships.

Swinney, 49, has definitely come a long way from the days when, as he likes to tell it, a desperate prayer and an unexplained credit card in the mail got him the $1,000 loan he needed for rent and tuition so he could play college football, but he definitely didn't get there all alone. Throughout his career, faith has been a consistent driving force for Clemson's head coach.

"All the credit, all the glory, goes to the good Lord!" Swinney exclaimed after winning his second national title. A sportscaster even once apologized for cutting away from a faith-filled "sermon" Swinney gave after a 2015 game against Notre Dame University.

"It's hard to survive and thrive in this world if you don't have a spiritual foundation and have something that will give you peace, because life is hard," Swinney said at a 2018 news conference. "We're all going to experience death and failure and setbacks and disappointments and cancer, and it's just a really difficult world. For me, God is always, and my relationship with Christ, he's given me hope and peace."

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