Dabo Swinney leaves the door open to an Alabama return, but should stay at Clemson

It's a conversation that always seems to pop up, but never seems to be real -- will Dabo Swinney replace Nick Saban at Alabama when the 65-year-old Saban decides to retire?

It's not an outlandish idea, and an attempt to distract or a quest for a hot take. Swinney -- a Bama guy through and through -- was born in Birmingham, raised in Pelham and walked on to play wide receiver with the Crimson Tide. He has built Clemson into a machine that went toe-to-toe with the Crimson Tide for the title two seasons ago, and then toppled the Tide last season in Tampa, Florida.

Swinney recently commented on the idea with Kirk Herbstreit and Ian Fitzsimmons on the Herbstreit and Fitzsimmons podcast.

"I've always said 'You never say never,' because you have no idea what the dynamics are going to be," Swinney said at the 22:00 mark. "Ten years from now, Alabama may call me and want me to come to Alabama, and the Clemson people may hate me at that point. I don't know. I may have a terrible president or a terrible AD. There's dynamics that can change. I'm always just focused on being great where I'm at and blooming where I'm planted."

Unsolicited advice for Swinney -- stay where you're at.

Sure, the Alabama job is the Holy Grail -- especially given his ties, but Clemson is the right fit.

Given the history and tradition of the Alabama football program, what Swinney has done at Clemson is arguably -- not definitively, but "arguably" -- more impressive than what Saban has done at Alabama. He built a program that had one national championship (1981) into a division champion one year after taking over on an interim basis in place of Tommy Bowden. Not his first full year as a head coach at Clemson, his first full year as a head coach anywhere.

From there, Swinney coached himself off the hot seat with an ACC title and Orange Bowl berth in 2011, got back to and won the Orange Bowl in 2013 and blossomed even more over the past two seasons in two title game appearances and one national championship.

While Alabama was a train wreck following the Mike Shula era when Saban took over, it was a beautiful train wreck with the materials waiting there to be rebuilt into the sport's greatest machine. Swinney didn't have those materials when he took over at Clemson, nor did he have the on-the-job experience to know what to do with them.

Swinney built this. He built Clemson.

Does he really want to abandon that to take over something that he had no part in constructing? It's like home renovation. Do you want the $10 million mansion that somebody else built, or the $8.5 million one with the pool you designed, basement you finished, layout you drew up and yard that you landscaped?

It's a simple answer -- you want your stuff.

Swinney commented on the possibility of retiring in Clemson earlier in the podcast.

"Whether or not I retire here or not, gah-lee, there's a lot that has to happen -- I got a long way to go," Swinney said. "You can retire in a lot worse places than Clemson, South Carolina, I tell you that. This place is special. I love it. My family has grown up here. Who knows what God's got in store for me down the road."

That sounds like somebody who gets it. He's perfectly happy with where he is, but understands that things do change, and isn't going to put himself in position to contradict himself a decade from now when this possibility could become more of a reality.

College Football Writer

Barrett Sallee has been a member of the sports media in various aspects since 2001. He is currently a college football writer for CBS Sports, while also hosting on ESPNU on SiriusXM Radio channel 84, the... Full Bio

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