A few weeks ago, the Clemson Tigers handed out their National Championship rings and head coach Dabo Swinney did not award one to former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant. This has sparked a lot of hot debate. So much that many critics wish the new season would start to shift the attention elsewhere.
If not a regular follower of Clemson or College Football, Kelly Bryant was the starting quarterback for the Tigers over a span of 18 games (winning 16). Bryant chose to transfer mid-season after losing the starting job to freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence. He made the decision, despite a “deep, long, emotional conversation” with his head coach last September.
At the time, Swinney expected Bryant to remain with the Tigers.
Trevor Lawrence, meanwhile, was fantastic the rest of the way, leading the Tigers to a dominating 2019 College Football Playoff Championship victory over Alabama. Lawrence is considered by many to be a lock for the top pick in the NFL Draft a few years from now.
The shift to Lawrence was definitely a smart decision by Dabo, but what about the ring?
Do you feel Dabo Swinney’s decision is fair or did Kelly Bryant deserve to receive a ring? Did the Clemson coach make the right call or should it even be his call to make?
When it comes to handing out hardware, a number of former players have returned to receive rings, most notably in pro sports. The occurrence where a player is publicly declined a ring is rare.
In this day in age, social media is king. Every decision is under a microscope. The transfer portal now exists and players seem to change schools at the drop of a hat. The fact that this is a scorching hot topic should come as no surprise to any of us.
As a result, I thought it would be interesting to discuss this story with THE WIFE (that HATES sports). Where would she stand on such a topic and what kind of feedback would she have?
To be completely honest, I thought her immediate reaction would be that this was a petty move by Dabo Swinney. That actually wasn’t the case at all.
Here’s how it all went down in the latest TWHS edition of “Better Half”, where we provide a topic followed by an opinion and a vote. You chime in with your own thoughts and provide a vote on which “half” you take (KP or THE WIFE). I urge you to make the right decision, because if not, I’ll never hear the end of it.
Better Half: KP’s Take – Coach’s Strategy
My gut reaction was that this was a petty move by Dabo, but I put some more thought into it. This is strategy and smart strategy. Dabo Swinney and Clemson have an elite brand. It may come across as snobbery or petty behavior to some, but this is protecting the brand.
If in any situation you don’t want to stick it out (e.g. Kelly Bryant bolting after losing the starting job), then you don’t receive any of the awards or benefits that the others do. Dabo (and any coach, for that matter) must value players that can handle adversity and won’t waiver on their decisions. An elite program wants a player that is going to be a good teammate that will be there through thick and thin.
Certainly, I don’t know every last word that was said between Bryant and Swinney, but every indication states that the Clemson frontman expected his former starter to remain with the team.
What if something happened to Trevor Lawrence during the stretch run? Clemson has plenty of talent and depth, but Kelly Bryant would have been the next man up. Once he left, there were clear fluctuations in the depth chart.
In the end, Lawrence made all the question marks disappear and the Tigers took the title.
But by not awarding Bryant a national championship ring, the message was sent loud and clear to all current players and pending recruits (plus their families). This protects the Clemson brand. Roster departures are only encouraged in situations where a player is ready to move on to the next level. That, in the end, helps the brand, too.
Better Half: THE WIFE’s Take – Regulate It
My gut reaction was that THE WIFE would think this was a petty move. Although, her response is still likely to be unpopular. That’s considering everyone’s takes from the BCS to the College Football Playoff, as well as the hot takes on paying players. The NCAA doesn’t receive a lot of Christmas cards these days, I’m guessing. Her thoughts lean in that direction.
So what was her take? In general, here’s how part of the conversation went down:
Q: Hey, did you hear about Dabo Swinney and the whole thing with the championship ring? Note: This was asked vaguely for effect.
THE WIFE: Nope.
Q: Do you know who Dabo Swinney is?
THE WIFE: Nope.
Q: Do you say anything else other than “nope”?
THE WIFE: Nope.
Q: Dabo is the head coach at Clemson. They recently gave out championship rings from last season’s college football title. Kelly Bryant was a former starting QB who transferred during the season.
THE WIFE: Ok.
Q: What do you think about that?
THE WIFE: How long did he play with them?
Q: He played for four games last season.
THE WIFE: OK, then I agree with that. There should be a policy and it should not be at the discrepancy of the coach. It should be something regulated (by the NCAA). Why does the coach care whether he gets a ring or not?
For the record, I’m a bit shocked that THE WIFE had this much to say about it.
She thinks the NCAA should regulate this. It should be consistent across all schools that win championships. There would be a defined rule as to what qualifies a player for a championship ring, whether if still on the roster or not. It’s an interesting idea, but I still don’t think it would be a popular one.
In Conclusion (and the VOTE)
Clemson is building a powerhouse brand in college football. The school has a fairly new (2017) $55 million football facility that leaves recruits drooling. Dabo Swinney has molded something very special and there are no signs of this team slowing down. The Tigers sell themselves.
With its second championship in three years, Clemson handed out rings to its players. Kelly Bryant, the team’s starting QB at the beginning of the season, did not get one. Now with Missouri, Bryant commented by saying it’s “not really a story”.
Maybe so, but where do you stand? Who is the BETTER HALF? Do you think championship ring distribution should be regulated or should the decision be left in the hands of every school or its coach?
Vote below and feel free to leave some thoughts in the comments section.
As always, thank you for reading The Wife Hates Sports – and happy football season!