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Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney and his staff are going about their duties as best they can as the Atlantic Coast Conference clings to hopes that there will be a football season this fall. But the Tigers, who have become perennial national championship contenders, began this week by taking a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

They won’t feel the effects on the field, but most of Clemson’s coaches will feel it in their wallet.

Dabo Swinney set an FBS salary record

Clemson shook up the college football world in April 2019 by locking head coach Dabo Swinney into a 10-year, $93 million contract. Both the duration and dollar amount exceeded what Swinney’s peers had in place at the time, sending a message that the school’s administration believed it had the best coach in the FBS.

Swinney took over the program midway through the 2008 season and has posted a 130-31 record. His 2016 and ’18 seasons ended with victories in the College Football Championship Game. The Tigers haven’t lost more than twice in a season since 2014.

Easily the most intriguing part of Swinney’s contract is that his buyout clause – standard in the world of big-time athletics — comes with a large asterisk. The standard buyout began at $4 million last year and gradually comes down to $1 million in 2027.

However, Clemson’s greatest fear is that Nick Saban might step down at Alabama one day, causing Swinney to leave Clemson for his alma mater. To give the Clemson administration some reassurance in that regard, there’s an additional 50% penalty if Swinney does move on to Alabama, CBS reported.

COVID-19 just took a bite out of Dabo Swinney’s salary

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and most of his assistants will be taking salary cuts of 10% this season because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university announced Aug. 24.

Clemson is facing the same budget concerns as virtually every college. Enrollment has been thrown into flux, substantial expenses related to online learning and keeping the campus safe from the virus popped up overnight last spring, and the athletic department’s projected income is down sharply. It will become worse if the football and basketball seasons, which come with big television money attached, are canceled.

Swinney’s original 2020 salary was $8.25 million. Based on the scale the school is using to trim all salaries above $400,000 a year, he will instead make $7,652,500, according to the Greenville News.

The $687,500 that Swinney is losing pales in comparison to what he’ll still bring home. In fact, the most recent annual FBS salary comparison compiled by USA Today shows that at least 24 head coaches around the country will earn less than what Swinney is losing. And that number will probably climb as more colleges enact their own salary cuts because of the pandemic.

The Clemson football assistants will feel the pain, too


Dabo Swinney Makes More Money at Clemson Than Most Coaches Earn in the NFL

According to reports, pay cuts and furloughs announced this week will save the Clemson athletic department $3.4 million. Of the 15 staffers taking cuts because they make more than $400,000, 10 are assistant coaches or staffers working for Dabo Swinney.

The $200,000 raise that the school awarded defensive coordinator Brent Venables after last season raised his salary to $2.4 million. The $600,000 boost to offensive coordinator Tony Elliott had boosted him to $1.6 million. Now, both will join Swinney in taking six-digit haircuts.

Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell takes the biggest hit among the position coaches. He should have made $640,000 this season. Six other assistant salaries exceeded half a million dollars.