Swinney: The changing landscape of college sports has ‘put more focus on my purpose’

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. — Dabo Swinney is both frustrated and encouraged.

Clemson’s veteran soccer coach is with some of his industry peers at the ACC’s annual spring conventions in North Florida this week, where he has spent hours shuffling from ballroom to ballroom at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Amelia Island to listen and participate in some of the most pressing topics of conversation in the league. These include Names, Pictures and Likenesses (NIL) opportunities and regulations, the potential reformatting of future ACC schedules and possible transfer portal windows, which Swinney says he advocates to allow coaches to better manage their rosters.

What the latter might look like is still unclear, but Todd Berry, chief executive of American Football Coaches of America, spoke to coaches earlier this week about introducing stricter timeframes for transfers to be accepted into the portal. Athletes in fall and winter sports have until May 1st of the following year to register on the portal, while athletes in spring sports have until July 1st to be immediately admitted to their new school.

In other words, there are currently no transfer windows.

“We discussed it,” Swinney told The Clemson Insider on Tuesday. “Just like with the NIL, I think there needs to be some kind of policy and some kind of order for you to have some semblance of roster management.”

The NCAA took a step this week to try to regulate NIL activity, which remains Swinney’s biggest frustration amid the evolving landscape of collegiate sports. Swinney is not opposed to athletes taking advantage of these opportunities. He reiterated that it’s the unintended consequences that bother him.

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“It’s being used in a way that wasn’t intended,” Swinney said.

On Monday, the College Sports Association took action on that front, implementing a policy making it illegal for boosters, including NIL collectives, to use money to lure recruits and already enrolled players seeking a transfer. Swinney said he believes the NCAA can find a way to realistically enforce this rule, although the NIL legislation already in place at the state level and antitrust issues could make it a difficult proposition. So, in Swinney’s eyes, the ambiguity continues.

“It’s new,” Swinney said. “I think if we go further into this, hopefully there will be some kind of guidelines and some kind of order as there aren’t any at the moment. We’ll see where it goes.”

All of the shifts within collegiate athletics have only added to the time that coaches have to spend keeping track of what’s going on in their respective programs. But Swinney said it hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm for the sport, which he’s been involved with for more than three decades, or made him question how much longer he could continue to coach it.

“It just made me focus more and more on what my main goal is and that is to build great men out of the game,” Swinney said. “I’m just helping these young people that I have the privilege of being with every day, to be the best version of themselves, to grow, to develop as men and to become the best player they can be. And get their education. It just focuses more on my purpose.”

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And as difficult as it may be for Swinney to remain patient with the process, he acknowledged that change isn’t always bad. Ultimately, Swinney said he believes college football will benefit.

“Something is always. You can just fill in the blank,” Swinney said. “I think we’re dealing with more changes than ever before, but I think it’s good because I think there needs to be some changes. And I think over the next 18 to probably 24 months — there’s some frustration at every level — but I think college football is going to end up in a better place eventually. We will navigate there.”

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