Two national titles in three years have helped earn Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney the biggest contract in college football history.
University trustees approved the 10 year, $92 million deal Friday. It runs through 2028 and includes two new clauses to make sure Swinney stays with the Tigers and stays one of the sport’s best paid coaches as long as he keeps winning.
The buyout in Swinney’s contract increases significantly if he leaves Clemson to coach at Alabama, where he was a walk on wide receiver and assistant coach in the 1990s. Swinney must pay $4 million if he leaves Clemson before the end of this year, but the buyout increases to $6 million if he coaches the Crimson Tide.
The deal also requires Swinney to be one of the three highest paid coaches in college football any season after his team makes the playoff semifinals or he can leave without penalty.
Swinney’s contract is bigger than the $74 million, eight year deal Alabama’s Nick Saban has through 2025 and the 10 year, $75 million contract Jimbo Fisher with Texas A&M signed through 2027.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, who also received a contract extension Friday through June 2024, said Swinney is worth every penny.
“Dabo’s leadership of our football program has brought value, exposure and unprecedented levels of success not only to our athletics program but to the entire university,” Radakovich said in a statement.
Swinney’s first head coaching contract in 2009 at Clemson paid him $800,000 a year — the lowest salary in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He went 15-12 his first two full seasons, including his only losing season at 6-7 in 2010.
Swinney is 97-15 since then, making the past four college football playoffs — Clemson’s only miss was the inaugural edition after the 2014 season — and won two national titles, both over Alabama.
Swinney, 49, said he was humbled by the school’s commitment to him and promised fans even bigger accomplishments.
“Our boys attended elementary school, middle school, high school and college in Clemson,” Swinney wrote in a letter to fans after the deal was finalized. “Very few head coaches get the opportunity to experience that type of stability and support, and we don’t take it for granted.”
Swinney will be paid at least $8.25 million this season, with his salary increasing to $10 million in 2027. The contract includes other incentives like a $250,000 bonus for a national title, $200,000 bonus for an ACC championship and $50,000 if he wins a coach of the year award.
If Clemson fires Swinney in the first two years of the contract, it will have to pay him $50 million with the buyout slowly declining over the next decade.