Dabo Swinney, the head football coach for Clemson University, credits the NIL with his program’s success. But as he told reporters on Wednesday, that probably doesn’t mean what you think it does.
“We built this program on NIL. We really did. And it’s probably different than what you’re thinking though. We built this program in God’s name, image, and likeness. ... That’s how I look at it,” Swinney said, according to a video of his remarks.
Typically in the college football context, NIL refers to a compensation scheme that enables athletes to profit off their own name, image or likeness by, for example, appearing in a TV commercial.
Although NIL compensation wasn’t legalized by the NCAA until July 2021, it’s already shaken up the world of college sports, making it easier for flashy programs with wealthy supporters to draw in top recruits.
Even before Swinney made his now-viral remarks, the NIL was in the news Wednesday, which is early signing day for football programs. Analysts pointed to NIL deals to explain why some schools are winning big on the recruiting market this year.
Swinney, who is in the midst of his 15th season as Clemson’s head coach, took that discussion in a different direction with his remarks about faith. Football fans rushed to make jokes about the coach’s NIL claim.
“C’mon Dabo, we know this isn’t true. Our Lord only signed a 12 man recruiting class, but I’m guessing that isn’t good enough for little ol Clemson,” tweeted Matt Brown, who runs the Extra Points newsletter.
Yall want to talk about four stars, five stars, but the only star we care about in THIS program is the Star of Bethlehem.— Matt Brown (@MattBrownEP) December 21, 2022
Wednesday was far from the first time that Swinney mixed faith and football. He routinely speaks about his religious beliefs and credits God with his success as a coach.
“I grew up in a family that I was taught there was a God and all that, but I didn’t really have a relationship with Christ until I was 16. And that was a game changer for me. That’s really become the foundation of my life,” he told Sports Illustrated in 2021.