The two head coaches have gone back-and-forth atop college football for the last half of a decade, and Swinney has earned the respect of his Alabama counterpart. Prior to Monday night’s national championship game between Clemson and LSU, Saban joined ESPN’s ‘Championship Drive’ to discuss Swinney’s sustained success at Clemson.
According to Saban, being able to continue success is one of the hardest things to do in college football. That’s why he has a ton of respect for Clemson’s lengthy winning streak. Maintaining such high expectations isn’t an easy thing to do.
“Well, I think the one thing people need to understand is success is not a continuum,” Saban said. “It’s momentary, and people have a difficult time really trying to maintain a standard of excellence once they have success. I take my hat off to Dabo for winning 29 games in a row. The championships they’ve won and being able to bring themselves back here again this year.”
One of the biggest enemies of sustained success is relaxation. If a program gets too comfortable with where it is, things can begin to slide. Swinney has gotten his players to stay focused each and every day, which is key to stringing together 29 straight victories. Regardless of what people may say about the quality of teams in the ACC, Saban knows the level of excellence it takes to be such a dominant program for several years running.
“Complacency creates a blatant disregard for doing the little things right,” Saban said. “To be a champion and to repeat as a champion, you have to do the little things right. You have to do it everyday. I think that’s challenging, and that’s one thing I respect about both of these programs. They’ve had a lot of success. Say what you want about who Clemson has played, but they played Ohio State. They played a really good football team, and they came and did what they had to win.”
The respect that Saban has for Swinney is clearly reciprocated. Following Clemson’s win over Alabama last year in the title game, Swinney was asked about his program being a dynasty. He was quick to give Saban and Alabama the credit they deserve when it comes to modern college football dynasties.
“I think we’re as good a program as there is out there, but we’re a long way from a dynasty,” Swinney said. “I think from a dynasty standpoint, Alabama is kind of in a category of their own. I mean, Coach Saban may have won five national championships in (12) years. It’s incredible the run that they’ve had. But we’re just thankful that we got the opportunity to experience it.
“But to be able to win two out of the last three, I think that certainly puts us in a place that’s pretty special from a program standpoint.”