I’ve got to reprint this part of a Q&A David Hale does with Clemson’s head coach in its entirety because Hale makes a valiant effort to give Swinney every First Rule of Holes chance to explain his thoughtless comment about player compensation and Dabo chooses to keep digging instead. It reads like something straight out of a GTP comment thread, except Dabo probably makes more than all of us here combined.
ESPN: You’ve been outspoken about your concerns about paying players. The NCAA is launching a working group to look at allowing players the rights to their name and likeness. What are your thoughts on that?
Swinney: I don’t know all the dynamics, but there are a million questions about how it works. You get into equity sport to sport. Is it different for positions? I love the collegiate model. I love the model of education. I’ve always valued that. The game has changed tremendously in a positive way, and I think a lot of people aren’t informed and don’t understand how we’ve improved the game from a financial standpoint. The value of a scholarship is incredible. The improvements of meals and stipends and paying for parents to travel. There’s a lot of positives. Health care. But that doesn’t mean there’s not room to improve things, and you’ve got to always look for ways to get better. That’s the job of the NCAA.
The value of a college education is enormous when you put it on paper when you talk about scholarship and housing and tutoring and training and the value of education. It’s enormous. Sometimes when we talk about changing the model, we don’t talk about the education piece. That doesn’t count. There are things I’d love to see in continued improvement, but I think everything should be tied to education and graduation. The very few, the 1.6 percent that get to go on to the NFL, for those who don’t — maybe there’s an annuity or stipend that when they graduate, they get that. That’s a model that can be an improvement. Maybe it is the likeness. I don’t know. Then you have others out there who say we should just professionalize college athletics.
ESPN: There was a lot of criticism of your stance against paying players in light of your new contract. I think I know what your answer to this would be, that you didn’t earn $93 million at your first job either, but …
Swinney: I got paid $400 a month. I put the work in and grinded. I’m never going to apologize for working to be at the top of my profession. I didn’t get into coaching for that, but that’s how my career has gone. The CEO of Delta makes a lot of money, too, and he has a lot of people that help him be successful. What’s the average income in this country? $45,000? If we really want to professionalize it, let’s pay them $80,000. Let’s pay them $100,000. But they’ve got to pay taxes. They’ve got to pay for college. They’ve got to pay rent. They’ve got to pay their meals. They pay for their tutors. That’s the real world. You can’t have it both ways. It’s a complicated issue. It doesn’t matter what you say, so I don’t get distracted by it. Did I ever think I’d have a contract like this? No. But there’s a market, and markets drive everything.
ESPN: Well, I think that’s really the criticism, right? That the market for players isn’t as open as the one for coaches.
Swinney: And listen, I don’t have an explanation for all that. People smarter than me figure values. But I think the game’s better than it’s ever been. I think the players are in a good spot. I think there’s definitely room for improvement and it’s great we have committees that are looking for ways to burnish the student-athlete model. That’s great. But to professionalize college athletics would be — there’s just a lot of challenges that come with that when it comes to equity and Title IX. And I don’t think anybody will ever be fully satisfied. But I like that there are other options. Not everybody wants an education. I respect that. I think an education is the foundation for people’s lives. It’s hard without it.
Even if you want to give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his sincerity — and as I said the other day, for all his aw, shucks shtick, Dabo knows the math — the lack of self-awareness on display in those comments is remarkable. He gets paid the big bucks because he’s worked hard and risen to the top of his profession, but somehow those same rules don’t apply to Trevor Lawrence. And Dabo doesn’t have an explanation for all that!
I’ve got the same advice for Dabo that I do for the rest of the amateurism romantics: just say you don’t like the idea of paying players and call it a day. You’ll sound more sensible.