Is Clemson Slipping from the Elite? Not According to Dabo Swinney

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had to answer a barrage of questions following the Tigers’ beat down at the hands of Tennessee in the Capital One Orange Bowl. But none of those questions made him smirk with disgust more than one from a reporter regarding the narrative that the Tigers had fallen from the realm of the elite programs.

Below is the full transcript of the question, along with Swinney’s response:

People will say the Clemson program is slipping compared to where it was just a few years ago. What would you say to people who would look at your program after tonight and say that it has fallen from the elite?

DABO SWINNEY: Well, I mean, I can’t really — I don’t really know what to say to them. We’re 11-3. Sure, I wish we were undefeated, but we’ve won the league seven out of the last eight years. I think that’s only happened one other time, and that was in the ’70s by Alabama.

We’ve been pretty consistent, and we’re going to continue to be consistent and keep trying to do everything we can to be undefeated around here.

I think we won 11-plus games — in 1981 we won 12. I think we went 31 years before we won 11 games again at Clemson, and we did that in 2012, and I think we’ve done it eight times in the last 11 years, so I think we’ve been incredibly consistent.

Disappointing tonight for sure, but hey, we’ve got high — nobody out there has higher expectations than what we have. I promise you that.

Again, we’ll keep battling. We’ll keep working. There’s a lot of great days ahead. A lot of great days ahead. People say what they want to say. Always have, always will. We’re just going to keep doing what we do. I’ve heard all those things before.

We’re off to a good start this decade, and if you look at the totality of our program, we’ve done a lot of great things.

Then on top of that, we had 90 guys make a 3.0 this semester. 90. That’s a school record. We had 17 guys make a 4.0 or better. For some people, it’s all about the scoreboard; for our program, it’s about really developing them in all areas. We’ve been able to do that consistently. Nobody has been more consistent than us.

We’re not perfect; we work hard and try to win every game. These guys bust their butt. Y’all saw what this kid has got the ability to do. He’s got some plays — we all got plays we’d like to have back, but you got a chance to see how special he can be, and you see the heart of these guys. You’ve got a freshman, a sophomore and a senior sitting up here, and they are three of the greatest ambassadors that any university could ever have.

Again, you want to win every single game, and when you’re a competitor, that’s what you strive for. But at the end of the day, seasons come and go. Every year is a new journey. We got better this year. We didn’t get where we wanted to go, but we got better, especially coming off of a very challenging season last year.

Man, I’m, again, thankful for the opportunity that we had to get here, and a lot of young guys to learn. I appreciate our fans that drove. We had a lot of fans come and support us, and really appreciate them and also appreciate the Orange Bowl people in making it a great week.

We’re all disappointed. My focus is on the young men in that locker room and making sure that we learn from this and that we keep getting better, keep moving forward.

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