Over the past few years the word “culture” has almost become synonymous with college football.
With each passing year it is a word that gets tossed around a little more often. You will hear Kirk Herbstreit frequently referencing the culture at Ohio State, Alabama, or Notre Dame. It just depends on which game he is calling that week.
Although, Herbstreit isn’t the only one that brings it up. Most of the television analysts have that word imprinted into their vocabulary these days, and rightfully so. Culture goes a long ways towards determining exactly how successful a program can be long-term.
The best cultures can be found at most of the nations better schools. Nick Saban has created a winning culture like no other at Alabama. Ryan Day is currently building a recruiting machine in Columbus that is deeply rooted in culture.
However, when it comes to culture, it all starts and stops with Dabo Swinney and Clemson. What the Tigers have takes a backseat to nobody.
What Swinney has cultivated at Clemson is nothing short of phenomenal and he has done it in just over a decade. And he basically built it from the ground up. It centers on family, and to a certain point exclusivity.
For example, the Tigers don’t just hand out scholarships, they have to be earned. Only Stanford handed out fewer in the last recruiting cycle. To get an offer from Clemson actually means something. For them to accept a commitment means even more. And it’s not just some tired slogan.
Clemson is also one of the few remaining “big boy” schools that doesn’t actively recruit the transfer portal. While it’s almost certain that they will eventually use it to fill needs, that isn’t the same as just going out and bringing transfers in to take the roster spot of a player that was recruited out of high school just because.
Go back and look at how Ohio State players and coaches reacted to their loss to Clemson in last seasons Fiesta Bowl. Compare that to the Tigers players and coaches responses to their blowout loss to the Buckeyes in last months Sugar Bowl. The differences are night and day.
If you want to go back even further, look how LSU celebrated their national title win over the Tigers last season. Cash was being handed out on the field, among other things. Some of the things that went on would never be seen going on after a big Clemson win. National championship or not.
When you hear one Clemson signee after another going on and on about the family-like atmosphere inside the program, it’s not just lip service. It’s real.
At Clemson, culture just means something different. It’s tangible. While it might not be something you can reach out and physically touch you can most certainly see it. You can hear it when the players speak. That atmosphere is one of the biggest reasons Dabo Swinney and the Tigers have evolved into one of the nations college football powerhouses.