Dabo Swinney discusses what it means to win the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award for a second time considering his ties to Alabama and his love for Bryant. (1:29)
HOUSTON — Dabo Swinney has had a good week.
Two days after winning the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T, the Clemson Tigers coach got what he called “the cherry on top,” taking home the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award on Wednesday night.
It’s the second straight year that Swinney, who guided the Tigers to a 35-31 win over Alabama on Monday night to secure Clemson’s first national championship since 1981, has won the award. He joins Chris Petersen as the only other coach to win the award twice since its inception in 1986.
“I just assumed that I didn’t have a chance to win it because I didn’t think you could win it back-to-back years,” Swinney said before Wednesday’s ceremony at Toyota Center. “That’d just be the cherry on top of the week I’ve had. That’d be awesome.”
Swinney led the Tigers to consecutive national championship game appearances and a combined 28-2 record over the past two seasons. The coach said he hasn’t slept much, hasn’t even been home since Monday night’s win and that it hasn’t fully sunk in.
“It still seems like someone’s going to wake me up and I’m going to be like ‘Dadgum it! Are you kidding me?'” Swinney said. “I didn’t go to bed the first night. I didn’t get to the hotel until 3:30 [a.m.] … We literally watched the moon set and the sun rise. It was unreal. And then they come and get me and say, ‘You’ve got to go to a press conference,’ at like 9 o’clock. I don’t remember that press conference, but I did go do it. Then we flew to Nashville [for the AFCA convention], so I haven’t been home yet. I’m so excited to get back to Clemson tomorrow and get back with the team.”
“We’ve got a parade this weekend. We actually planned it before the game because we planned to win.”
Swinney, who played receiver for Alabama from 1990 to 1992 and was an assistant coach for the Crimson Tide from 1993 to 2000, said he thought the late Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, for whom the award is named, was happy for him on Monday night.
“I know Coach Saban’s chasing his record — he’s got five [national championships], Coach Bryant’s got six. It’s pretty special,” Swinney said. “At the end of the day, I have to think that Coach Bryant was smiling the other night. I have to believe that.”
Asked if he thought his team had an advantage facing Alabama for a second consecutive year, Swinney laughed.
“Are you kidding me? Ain’t nobody got an advantage when you play Alabama,” Swinney said. “Last year we really, really, really thought we could win. I think this year we knew. We knew that we could because of our experience and knowledge from last year. But I don’t know that you have any advantage when you line up to play the Tide, other than the fact that we had No. 4 [quarterback Deshaun Watson].”
Swinney said he’ll meet with his 2017 Clemson team for the first time on Thursday afternoon.
“I’ve got my first team meeting tomorrow at 4 o’clock,” Swinney said. “We’ll start a new journey and it will just be the 2017 team in there. I always look forward to that, kind of getting everybody re-situated in the room, where everybody’s going to be and we’ll go to work. Everything counts.”