Clemson’s national championship rings have been distributed, and Dabo Swinney confirmed to ESPN’s Chris Low that one will not be in the mail to the Columbia, Mo., home of former Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant.
“He wasn’t on the team. You’ve gotta be on the team to get a ring,” Swinney said. “I love Kelly and appreciate what he did for us, but he decided to move on.”
Dabo continued: “Hopefully we’ll be able to visit and sit down and have a good conversation, but he’s focused on what he’s trying to do and we wish him the best. He’s a graduate of Clemson and always will be and was a heck of a player for us, but my job is to do what’s best for the team.”
This has been a very hot topic across social media, divided into two schools of thought.
Dabo made the right decision
Bryant had the option to remain a Tiger throughout their 15-0, national championship season and decided not to, electing to transfer to Missouri after Clemson’s coaches announced Trevor Lawrence as the team’s starter on Sept. 24 of last year.
Can you imagine how screwed Clemson — Bryant’s former teammates — would have been had Lawrence torn his ACL after Bryant left? The Tigers could have been forced to play the second two-thirds of their season with their QB1 injured and QB2 sitting in his apartment across town, watching the game while scrolling through texts from coaches recruiting him to his next destination.
In fact, this situation did play out briefly, when Lawrence was knocked out against Syracuse — the game immediately after Bryant left. Third-stringer-turned-backup Chase Brice played the entire second half and navigated the Tigers from a 16-7 deficit to a 27-23 win. What if he had to do that for an entire season?
Denying Bryant a ring sends the message to all current and future Tigers that transferring mid-season permanently burns your bridge with the program, thereby giving all fence-sitters second thoughts.
No one faults Bryant for making the best decision for himself, but adult decisions come with adult consequences, and the consequence of his choice means he’s no longer part of the Clemson program, for worse or for better.
Dabo is being petty
I mean, is it truly in Clemson’s best interest moving forward to deny Bryant a ring? What does Dabo really gain here?
The guy did everything asked of him for three and a quarter seasons, sitting behind Deshaun Watson before it was his turn to start, where he promptly piloted Clemson to wins in 16 of his 18 starts. Rather than watch his eligibility expire from the sideline, Bryant took the opportunity afforded him by his coaching staff and the rules of the NCAA to extend his career by a season.
Clemson coaches specifically — and classily — named Lawrence the starter after the fourth game and not the fifth, thereby giving Bryant the option to use this year as a redshirt and start over elsewhere — so why are they now acting hurt and aggrieved after he took advantage of the choice before him?
Bryant went 4-0 as a starter this year; no matter what color his Tiger stripes happen to be right now, he’s more responsible for Clemson’s national title than a lot of guys wearing orange on the sidelines in Santa Clara. Without Bryant nursing home that 28-26 win at Texas A&M in September, Dabo may not even have title rings to distribute in the first place.
Though it’s obvious Dabo still holds a grudge against him, Bryant’s former teammates don’t. He remains so highly thought of in the Clemson locker room that a number of Tigers traveled on their own dime to Columbia to watch Bryant play in Missouri’s spring game. If denying Bryant a ring sends a message to current and former Clemson players, doesn’t giving him a ring send a better, more positive message? In sending a message to the rest of the program by denying Bryant, Dabo ignores that he also sends a message about himself — Bryant didn’t just burn his bridge with Dabo, Dabo burned his bridge with a popular former player.
What message serves Clemson’s long-term interests better: “Once a Tiger, always a Tiger” or “If you leave, you’re shunned”?
So, those are the schools of thought? Personally, I see the merits of both arguments, but you may not.