Monday, December 1, 2008

CLEMSON HIRES HEAD COACH TO BE HEAD COACH

Good news for Clemson and Virginia Tech. Bad news for Bud Foster.

From ESPN -- Back on Oct. 13 Tommy Bowden walked away after nine-and-a-half seasons. The Clemson Tigers were ranked ninth this summer and the runaway preseason favorites to win the ACC. So when Clemson opened with only one win over four BCS opponents, Dabo Swinney was brought in to right the ship.

Right away, he took steps to heal the troubled Tigers. He fired offensive coordinator Rob Spence and took over playcalling. He opened practice to students and reinstituted a pregame "Tiger Walk" through the parking lot in front of the stadium so players could feel fan support.

Swinney was folksy and charming, comparing Clemson's problems to a poorly tuned car that just needed a little TLC.

Swinney's biggest move was rediscovering playmakers like quarterback Cullen Harper, receiver Aaron Kelly, and runners of James Davis and C.J. Spiller.

At his debut against Georgia Tech, Swinney drew applause from Death Valley fans when he made loafing punter Dawson Zimmerman go back on the field and run hard to the sidelines.

Slowly, Swinney helped the Tigers regain their confidence. After the Georgia Tech loss, Clemson won four of its last five down the stretch to finish 7-5 and qualify for a bowl -- something that seemed impossible seven weeks ago.

The crowning moment came last Saturday when those same Death Valley fans chanted Swinney's name near the end of a 31-14 victory over rival South Carolina and coach Steve Spurrier.

Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips, who met with several potential coaching replacements such as new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, said the Gamecocks victory wasn't the deciding factor. "It certainly helped," he said, grinning.

In the end, Phillips said Swinney had built up enough capital in his "six-year job interview" to gain the job.

(Photos by Rex Brown/Getty Images and AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

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