‘They want me to just shut that off and not be a Christian’
- By Joshua Needelman –
- May 6, 2020 Updated May 14, 2020
CLEMSON — Coach Dabo Swinney on Wednesday night pushed back against critics who question the role Christianity plays in the Clemson football program.
In April 2014 the Freedom from Religion group filed a complaint to Clemson, claiming Swinney and his staff had engaged in “unconstitutional behavior” for not creating a clear separation between church and state at the public university.
“I always tell everybody, my job is not to save ’em. My job is to win football games,” Swinney said during an FCA video call Wednesday. “I’ve come under fire many times from different organizations and things like that because of my faith. They want me to just shut that off and not be a Christian.
“But God says in Ecclesiastes 3:23, whatever you do, you do it with all your heart as if you’re working for the Lord.”
Swinney was joined on the video call by his wife, Kathleen. The HUDDLE UP! conference was hosted by former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson and his wife, Kirsten. Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy also participated in the call, which was streamed live on YouTube.
Swinney started at Clemson in 2003 as wide receivers coach, before taking over as head coach in 2008. His predecessor, Tommy Bowden, was also open about his faith and attracted similar criticism.
On Wednesday, Swinney pushed back on “myths” about him, including that he requires players to attend church on a mandatory basis. But he did say he feels responsible to serve the “hearts and souls” of his players.
“If I get a young man that comes to Clemson and he’s strong in his faith, and he leaves Clemson and I didn’t help him grow stronger, shame on me,” he said. “If I get a young man that comes to Clemson, and he doesn’t know anything, or he’s searching, and I don’t cultivate that. … Shame on me.
Swinney noted he tries to be transparent during the recruiting process so as to establish connections with players and their families. In December, 13 Clemson players told The Post and Courier that Swinney’s public displays of faith played a significant role in their college decision.
Swinney also said it’s important for him to be “bold.”
“So many people, today, they are afraid of criticism. They are afraid of not being politically correct, or whatever it may be. There’s a lot of hostility toward Christianity today,” Swinney said. “I always tell people, the hope of the world, it’s not in politics, it’s not in a new President, it’s not in a stimulus package. It’s not in anything.
“The hope of the world is Jesus.”
In 2020, Dabo Swinney enters his 12th full season as Clemson’s head football coach, he’ll do so with of course a growing list of accomplishments. He is currently 130–31 at Clemson and overall (as he’s only coached one place). Swinney, who turned 50 November, 2019, now owns 8 division championships, 6 Atlantic Coast Conference titles and 2 National Championships. The Tigers’ head coach, a 3-time Bear Bryant National Coach Of The Year award winner, is now 6-3 in the College Football Playoffs and holds an impressive 20-7 record all-time versus top 10 opponents.