NCF Nation: Danny Pearman

Clemson goes into the season in the national championship conversation, but if there is one overriding question about this team it is whether it has a championship-level defense.

How do the Tigers get there? Defensive coordinator Brent Venables should know, considering he coached a national-title-winning defense at Oklahoma in 2000 and won seven Big 12 championships during his time with the Sooners. When asked what it takes to reach a championship-caliber level, Venables said:

"It comes down to leadership, toughness, attitude, guys continuing to develop. Will our guys hold each other accountable? The best teams I’ve been associated with are player-driven. They have a special chemistry about them, a special focus, a willingness to be worked, a willingness to be coached. There’s a lot of time between now and next January. We’ve got as good a chance as anybody that’s out there. Do we have enough talent and ability? Yeah, but there are a lot of other intangibles. They have to come together, and there’s a lot of work to be done between now and when we kick off. I don’t really like to talk about all those things at the end. You have to earn it and earn it one game at a time and one day at a time. I’m a firm believer in that. That’s how I’m wired, that’s the family I’ve been brought up in this profession. It’s about the work you put in every day. If you do, you’ll have a chance. If you don’t, you won’t."

Venables is not the only coach on staff who has won a national championship. Dabo Swinney won one in 1992 as an Alabama player -- and current Clemson assistant Danny Pearman was on that Crimson Tide staff. Assistant Dan Brooks won one with Tennessee in 1998, too. Coaches on this staff have been through the drama, and the pressure, of trying to make a run at a national championship.

But it's not something any of them has even discussed with his players.

"To me, you don’t sit and promote that," Venables said. "You try to be as good as you can be today. Having an opportunity to compete for a national championship, you’ve got to win your division. You’ve got to win the opener. There are so many things that have to take place, and the good fortune you have to have to get to that point. When you start focusing on the wrong things instead of controlling the things you can control today, you’re setting yourself up for failure."

Dabo Swinney invests in his program

February, 16, 2012
Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has taken it upon himself -- basically out of his own pocket -- to give his assistants raises.

There is a clause in Swinney's contract stating that if he won the ACC, he would rise to a certain level from a salary standpoint among ACC coaches. When he won the 2011 title, that meant this year's contract would increase by $422,000. He is taking $265,000 of that to give to his coaches. Technically, it's an allocation -- not money he has already received. It is money he would have received -- and that is the key difference between what Swinney is doing and what Georgia coach Mark Richt did.

Regardless, it's a true investment in his program -- one I've never heard of or seen elsewhere in the college coaching ranks -- and odds are it will pay off. It is proof of the literal value of coaching stability.

Swinney's decision stems from today's announcement that the Compensation Committee of the Clemson Board of Trustees approved a proposal from athletic director Terry Don Phillips to grant salary increases totaling $450,000 for seven assistant football coaches, and the head strength coach. It will be in effect for two years, and 60 percent of that money is coming from Swinney. The remaining 40 percent, or $185,000 will be provided by the athletic department.

According to the school's release, Swinney is expected to make $1.9 million in 2012, which will rank 46th nationally according to the most recent data available to Phillips. The staff, including the head coach, is expected to rank between 12th and 15th.

“Coach Swinney has opted to invest in the stability of the program with money he earned in 2011,” Phillips said in a prepared statement. “We have a young football team returning for 2012 and 2013 and he felt it was imperative to have stability from a staff standpoint. These are all options that had been in his existing contract.”

“I am extremely grateful to the Board of Trustees for its approval of these salary increases,” Swinney said in the release. “We have a great staff and I want to do everything I can to keep it together at a critical time in our program. We have a young, but talented team and I feel we have a chance to do something very special in the near future.”

Earlier, it was announced that offensive coordinator Chad Morris would earn $1.3 million and defensive coordinator Brent Venables would earn $800,000 during the 2012 season, meaning Clemson’s nine full-time assistant coaches will earn $4.2 million.

Here is the official run-down of the remaining staff salaries recently approved by the Board of Trustees:

Joey Batson (strength coach) $200,000

Dan Brooks $310,000

Robbie Caldwell $310,000

Tony Elliott $205,000

Charlie Harbison $375,000

Marion Hobby $375,000

Danny Pearman $310,000

Jeff Scott $215,000