Clemson football: Dabo Swinney on divisionless ACC schedule

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney answers a question at the NCAA college football Atlantic Coast Conference Media Days in Charlotte, NC, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney answers a question at the NCAA college football Atlantic Coast Conference Media Days in Charlotte, NC, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)


Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney admits that he’s a “division guy” when it comes to ACC conference championship structure.

At the same time, he sees the league’s decision last month to eliminate its Atlantic and Coastal divisions, instead sending its top two teams based on conference winning percentage to the championship game starting next year, as a “reasonable change.”

The ACC will also adopt a 3-5-5 scheduling format starting in 2023. Under that model, Clemson will play permanent opponents Florida State, Georgia Tech and NC State annually, and each of the conference’s other 10 teams twice per four-year cycle .

“I like being able to play for a divisional championship,” Swinney said during Wednesday’s ACC Kickoff football media event. “But it is what it is. I get this, too. It addresses some of the issues you had with the divisions because conferences have grown.”

He added of the league’s permanent opponent choices: “I do know there’s some complications with natural rivalries and things like that, but I think they did a good job of addressing it and trying to have some competitive balance.”

The ACC’s divisional format has been very good to Swinney’s Clemson program, which has shared the Atlantic Division with Boston College, Florida State, Louisville, NC State, Syracuse and Wake Forest since 2005.

The Tigers won an outright Atlantic Division title or shared the honor in eight of 11 years from 2009 to 2021: 2009, 2011, 2012 (shared), 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. That doesn’t include the team’s 2020 title game bert in a divisionless season.

Swinney said he enjoyed competing for divisional championships because they represented another tangible goal alongside conference championships, national championships and — specific to Clemson — the “state championship” they play annually with rival South Carolina.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney raises the trophy after Clemson won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh in Charlotte, NC, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. Mike McCarn PA

“(Pittsburgh coach Pat) Narduzzi talked about that,” Swinney said, “how they didn’t win the league back in 2018, but that Coastal Division championship was a big deal for them: kind of a next step in recruiting and so forth . So that kind of all goes away.”

Since 2014, Clemson’s divisional superiority has offered a clear path to the ACC football championship game and, subsequently, the College Football Playoff.

The Tigers’ six consecutive ACC titles from 2015 to 2020 (the last coming in a divisionless structure) set a new national record for the conference championship game era. Clemson reached the CFP all six seasons and won two national titles.

Clemson went 10-3 and 6-2 in the ACC in 2021, tying with NC State for second in the Atlantic Division as divisional champion Pittsburgh beat Wake Forest in the ACC championship. That ended Clemson’s streak of ACC titles at six.

Swinney said he appreciates the new model’s consistency, too, noting how “you’d have kids that came to Clemson and never played at a certain school. This allows everyone to get everywhere, home and home, at least twice in their career.”

Clemson gets a final shot at an Atlantic Division title in 2022 before the league pivots to a divisional model. The Tigers will host NC State, Syracuse and Louisville this year while visiting Wake Forest, Boston College and Florida State.

Clemson 2022 football schedule

Sept. 5 (Mon): at Georgia Tech8 p.m. (ESPN)

Sept. 10: vs. Furman3:30 p.m. (ACC Network)

Sept. 17: vs. Louisiana Tech8 p.m. (ACC Network)

Sept. 24: did WakeForest

Oct. 1: vs. NC State

Oct. 8: at Boston College

Oct. 15: at Florida State

Oct. 22: home vs. Syracuse

Oct 29: OPEN

Nov. 5: did Our Lady7:30 p.m.

Nov. 12: vs. Louisville

Nov. 19: vs. Miami

Nov. 26: vs. south carolina

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Chapel Fowler has covered Clemson football, among other topics, for The State since June 2022. He’s a Denver, NC, native, a 2020 UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus and a pickup basketball enthusiast with previous stops at the Fayetteville (NC) Observer and Chatham (NC) News+Record. His work has been honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors, the North Carolina Press Association and the Associated College Press.


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