Dabo Swinney, College Football’s Constant Lightning Rod

It’s that time of year, as the weather seemingly changes every hour.

Thunderstorms are the norm. Winds, rain, thunder and lightning roll through. To keep our homes safe, sometimes a well-grounded lightning rod is needed to protect our homes and family.

However there is another connotation for the term, lightning rod. One, who by their mere existence, draws the ire and criticism from the poison pundits of the media. Dabo Swinney, most every off-season, is that lightning rod of College Football.

As constant as the sunrise, Swinney’s character, his beliefs, his faith and even his acumen as a coach are disparaged by certain sources of bothersome, resounding, never ending hot air. Let me be more specific. Everybody’s despised bald-headed, big-eared buffoon. This particular off-season’s fodder? Swinney’s stance on players being “paid” to play.

In a recent interview Swinney said he’s against anything that devalues education. He added that paying players outright blurs the line between professional and amateur sports. Personally, I see little wrong with Swinney’s view but obviously it matters little what I think..

It’s quite clear to anyone, without a toxic disdain for Swinney and Clemson, that he is for NIL, despite what some may say. However, his fundamental, core belief in amateurism has remained unchanged. He has been very vocal in his belief that, instead of throwing money at players, institutions should educate the student-athletes on the NIL process, give them tools and resources to maximize their opportunities.

Now, Swinney and Clemson have taken NIL to a positive place with a new world class, cutting edge facility, new partnerships and forward thinking collaboratives staying true to his and his program’s philosophy.

In the absence of any governance from any entity, greed creeps in and this certainly is happening. The majority of programs, I believe, want to do the right things, the right way. But how? Following Clemson’s lead, they must remain true to their principles, their philosophy and follow their conscience no matter how much hot air is blown their way.

After the recent attacks by that “big earned bag of wind,” Clemson and Swinney have proven their commitment to education, the student-athletes, the community. In doing so, they’re tapping into the unlimited possibilities of each young man or women to build, manage and financially benefit from their name, image and likeness.

I’m of the belief, deep inside, Swinney relishes the role of being a lightning rod. It attracts that unbridled power and at the same time protects that which is most important, home and family. Not attempting to minimize, nor marginalize, how difficult it must be at times to be under constant attack, the head coach just remains true to his beliefs. One thing even Dumbo can’t ever question, is Clemson’s ability to remain as transparent and as authentic as possible.

Several years ago, when asked about his feelings regarding his detractor’s opinions, Swinney’s succinct answer was priceless.

Funny thing about lightning, it is attracted not only to lightning rods but to dead trees and it doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to know who the dead tree is, it’s the one with the big ears.

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