Dabo Swinney gets 3-year extension

Updated: June 7, 2012, 7:33 PM ET
By Heather Dinich | ESPN.com

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has agreed in principle to a three-year contract extension that will take him through the 2017 season, the school announced Thursday.

Swinney's contract is now for six years and the yearly compensation is $1.965 million, plus performance incentives and escalators.

Swinney was grateful for Clemson's support.

"I am very appreciative of their confidence in the program and my staff," he said.

It's a confidence that's grown since Swinney was first named interim coach in the middle of the 2008 season when his boss, Tommy Bowden, left with the once-top-10 Tigers in freefall at 3-3.

Swinney won the Bobby Dodd Award as national coach of the year, something a Clemson coach hadn't done since Danny Ford in the national championship season of 1981.

"This contract reaffirms our commitment to Coach Swinney and his staff," Clemson Board of Trustees chairman David Wilkins said in a prepared statement. "We look forward to our football program winning many more ACC championships under his direction."

Should Swinney remain to the end of the contract, it would leave him tied with Bowden as the school's third longest-serving coach. Only Frank Howard with 30 seasons, and Ford, with 11, have more years in charge.

Whether or not Clemson stays in the ACC that long remains to be seen. Clemson does not have a viable offer to leave the league, but the university's board of trustees last month agreed to consider an offer if one were presented.

Swinney has won two Atlantic Division titles in three seasons as Clemson's head coach, and in 2011 he led the program to its first ACC championship in 20 years with a 38-10 victory over Virginia Tech. The win sent Clemson to the Discover Orange Bowl, the school's first BCS Bowl appearance and first Orange Bowl appearance in 30 years.

Clemson finished with a 10-4 record and the 10 wins were the most for the program since 1990.

The Tigers became one of college football's surprise teams as they opened 8-0 and rose to No. 6 in the country behind a high-paced offense run by coordinator Chad Morris, triggered by quarterback Tajh Boyd and featuring All-American receiver Sammy Watkins.

Not everything's been rosy for Swinney.

The Tigers were embarrassed in the Orange Bowl in a 70-33 loss to West Virginia, a defeat that led Swinney to replace defensive coordinator Kevin Steele with Brent Venables from Oklahoma.

Clemson has lost three straight games to rival South Carolina, a low that hadn't happened to the Tigers since 1968-70.

Clemson did what it could keep things in place for the Tigers. The school retained Morris as offensive coordinator with a salary of $1.3 million a year for six years. Venables was hired for $800,000 a year. In February, the school awarded $450,000 in raises to the rest of the Tigers staff -- more than half of that coming from a contractual bonus Swinney earned and redirected toward staff raises.

Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips said Swinney had earned the long-term deal because of what the team has accomplished.

"I know we certainly have more hills to climb," Phillips said. "But with his passionate leadership and work ethic, I am confident we will get where we intend to be."

It hasn't been the easiest of offseasons for Swinney. Clemson's five-star tailback Mike Bellamy had to leave school because of academic issues last month. Watkins, Swinney's other five-star talent in the 2011 recruiting class, was arrested on drug charges and is expected to face discipline that could include sitting out the season opener with Auburn at the Georgia Dome next September.

Swinney has yet to announce Watkins' punishments.

But Swinney's confident this is just the beginning of a long, successful run.

"The administration has provided us with the resources to continue our pursuit to be the best in the ACC and compete for the national championship for years to come," he said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.