Clemson University

Coordinators, coaches know there are no guarantees jobs will be safe after bowl game

CLEMSON -- When athletics director Terry Don Phillips installed Dabo Swinney as Clemson's interim coach with six games left, he told the coaching staff that choosing the full-time hire would eventually be easy if things played out as expected.

It went without saying that helping Swinney fulfill Phillips' prophesy likely offered the best, if not only, chance for many of the Tigers' assistants to retain their jobs, too.

"You just know that the best thing you can do is do the best you can in any circumstance you're in," outside linebackers/bandit ends coach Ron West said.

"Always, something good happens if you do that. You can't worry about factors you can't control."

The factors that West was referring to now being those that figure to make this a potentially anxious Christmas season for several Clemson assistants, especially defensive coaches.

There has already been turnover at two staff positions, and all signs point to more coming after the Tigers' Jan. 1 Gator Bowl against Nebraska.

Swinney said he told every staff member earlier this month there were "no guarantees" about their job security beyond the bowl, and it is generally accepted in the coaching ranks that a newly hired coach will replace more assistants than he keeps.

Furthermore, Clemson has a glaring opening at defensive coordinator, as Vic Koenning resigned when it became clear he would not be retained next year.

Swinney is known to have interviewed at least one replacement candidate -- former Tennessee coordinator John Chavis -- and has said he does not expect to make a hire until after the bowl game, when employed candidates might become available.

Clemson already has the maximum number of NCAA-regulated assistant coaches (nine), so at least one current assistant would have to be let go if a coordinator is hired. More be fired depending on whether Swinney or the new defensive coordinator want to bring someone else on board as well.

Acting offensive coordinator Billy Napier and offensive line coach Brad Scott are believed to have firm spots on next year's staff, as does former graduate assistant Jeff Scott, the interim receivers coach. Swinney has hired two assistants (tight ends/offensive tackles coach Danny Pearman and secondary coach Charlie Harbison) as well as former Mississippi State offensive coordinator Woody McCorvey, whose current title is director of football operations.

Inside linebackers coach David Blackwell -- an interim co-coordinator for the bowl along with West -- said he refuses to look at this as a one-game audition for Swinney or other prospective employers.

"There's things that happen, whether you like them or not, that are neither here nor there," Blackwell said. "We're all professional and this is what we've got to do. Ideally Vic's still here, but it's not a perfect world all the time."

"Right now the objective is to win the football game, and as far as my personal things, it's got to be about these seniors and this team. It would be selfish of me or Ron or anyone else to sit there and say this is all about me. It's not."

On the other hand, both West and Blackwell are quick to admit that the most difficult part of their job uncertainty is the toll it takes on their immediate families.

As those in many other professions experience, there is the real possibility that coaches will have to move while put their homes for sale during these trying economic times.

That is not to mention the sentimentality factor. West, 51, reneged on a West Virginia job two years ago because of his wife's love for Clemson. Blackwell's roots are in Greenville, while defensive line coach Chris Rumph has family spread out around the St. Matthews and Orangeburg areas.

While discussing sophomore DeAndre McDaniel's switch back to safety in the coming offseason Wednesday, West explained how much McDaniel should benefit from gaining a different perspective of the same schematic system.

When it was pointed out that McDaniel could be in a new system in a matter of weeks, West smiled and said he preferred to think positively.

"When we came in here in 1999, is this program better than it was then? You bet it is," said West, along with Brad Scott the only remaining members of Tommy Bowden's initial staff. "And I know it is. I can look myself in the mirror and say that. Here we are going to a New Year's bowl.

"What I want to do is just enjoy the moment, because I love the players, I love Clemson, I love working here. Bottom line is, all we can do is do the best we can and keep working. We owe it to these players, this program and to Clemson."